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Windy, dry weather prompts red-flag warning

Members of the East Farmingdale fire department extinguish

Members of the East Farmingdale fire department extinguish a brush fire along the railroad tracks off Route 109 in Farmingdale on Thursday, April 24, 2014. Credit: Paul Partain

When it comes to the fire weather outlook for Thursday, Long Island is in an area deemed critical by the Storm Prediction Center, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A red-flag warning is also in effect until 10 p.m., with conditions ripe for the rapid spread of fire, should one get started, the National Weather Service said.

Such a warning indicates that "critical fire weather conditions are expected or occurring," the service said, brought about by "a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels."

Firefighters have been battling a Farmingdale brush fire along Route 109, just west of Route 110, Suffolk police said. It was reported about 2 p.m., near the Wendy's restaurant, police said. So far, no roadways have been shut down, police said shortly after 2:30 p.m. Other details were not immediately available.

As of around 11 a.m., wind gusts of 43 mph were reported in Westhampton, 37 mph in Shirley and 33 mph at Long Island MacArthur Airport, said Joe Pollina, weather service meteorologist based in Upton. Relative humidity was in the 20 percent to 25 percent range, he said, and was expected to drop further as temperatures rise.

Northwesterly winds of 15 to 25 mph and gusts of around 40 mph were expected Thursday, with relative humidity on Long Island dropping as low as 15 percent, possibly lower in isolated spots, Pollina said. Temperatures are expected in the low 60s, possibly high 50s on the East End.

That humidity level -- resulting in part from a dry air mass originating over Canada, as well as down-sloping surface winds from the northwest, moving from higher to lower elevations -- is more like that of the Southwestern desert area, he said.

"It is pretty low," Pollina said.

People should take special care when disposing of burning material, such as cigarette butts, he said, and contact authorities right away if they should spot a fire or smoke plume.

With Ellen Yan

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