Extremely dangerous fire weather conditions for California, 26 million people under red flag warning


Critical and extremely critical fire weather conditions continue across parts of California through Thursday, October 31, 2019, especially for southern California. At least 10 fires are burning across the state on October 30, with more than 26 million people under red flag warning. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) cut off power to about 1 million customers in Northern California earlier this week in an attempt to prevent wildfires.

Powerful and strong offshore Santa Ana winds will combine with very low relative humidity levels and overall dry conditions to create unfortunately favorable conditions for rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior of existing and new fires, NWS warns.

On October 29, the Los Angeles weather service issued an 'Extreme Red-Flag Warning' for Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura counties as winds neared 113 km/h (70 mph), expected to reach 130 km/h (80 mph). This was the first time the 'extreme' warning was issued by the LA office.

A total of 43 counties in California are experiencing red-flag warnings or historic wind events, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on October 29. Newsom declared a statewide emergency on October 27 as wildfires continued burning across the state, forcing more than 180 000 people to evacuate.

"The magnitude of the wind gusts really [is] going to be a concern," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "The actual winds that people experience really will be quite extreme in a lot of places, really everywhere except for the wind-sheltered parts of downtown L.A. and central L.A."

Officials worry the winds could prove disastrous for Getty fire, which broke out shortly after 01:30 LT on October 28 along the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center and quickly spread into neighborhoods, the Los Angeles Times reports.

As of 07:00 LT on October 30, the Getty Fire was 27 % contained. It has so far consumed 462 ha (745 acres), destroyed 12 and damaged 5 residences. 

Mandatory evacuations are in effect for 7 091 residences considered threatened.

The Kincade Fire has so far destroyed at least 206 structures, including at least 89 single-family homes.

Fierce winds in northern California, known colloquially as Diablo winds, played a large role in quickly spreading Kincade Fire. On October 27, wind gusts reached 150 km/h (96 mph), making the fire impossible to stop.

From October 26 to October 28, the fire grew by nearly 19 400 ha (48 000 acres) and reached 31 089 ha (76 825 acres) by October 30 with just 30% containment (up from 15% yesterday). This is now the largest wildfire in California in 2019.

More than 5 000 people, almost 600 fire engines, 27 helicopters and 67 bulldozers are fighting the blaze.

Two weather stations have already reported 120 km/h (74 mph) winds today and nearly three dozen locations across southern parts of the state gusts of more than 80 km/h (50 mph).

Relative humidity readings are less than 10%.

Featured image credit: NASA


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