Calif. Blazes Rage On With Dry, Gusty Winds Fueling More Potential Devastation

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Calif. Blazes Rage On With Dry, Gusty Winds Fueling More Potential Devastation

"This weekend's pattern appears nearly as dangerous as the one that pushed gale-force winds and parched air into California's wine country late Sunday night," wrote meteorologist Bob Henson.

Map from the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center shows areas facing elevated and critical fire alerts.

State authorities announced Saturday that gusty winds sparked new evacuations and a "new large wildfire in Lake County" as California's deadliest fires on the books continue to rage.

"The emergency is not over," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state's Office of Emergency Services. While noting some progress, he said: "It's the sixth day of these fires. We are still at it, full tilt."

By Saturday, the death toll had reached 35, over 214,000 acres have burned, and roughly 100,000 people have been forced to flee, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Seventeen 17 fires are still underway, and hundreds of people are still missing.

With dry and gusty winds expected to continue, the National Weather Service warned Saturday of "critical fires alerts" and said that "Any new fire starts will likely spread rapidly."

Meteorologist Bob Henson noted the "grim" forecast, writing Friday evening: "This weekend's pattern appears nearly as dangerous as the one that pushed gale-force winds and parched air into California's wine country late Sunday night, triggering a deadly swarm of fires—many of which were still less than 25 percent contained on Friday."

Indeed, as the San Jose Mercury News wrote, "firefighters faced strong winds Saturday morning that fed blazes threatening east Santa Rosa and left homes in Sonoma burning."

Earlier this week, Rebecca Lindsey noted at Climate.gov that the conditions that fostered the flames began in December 2016. "The state's second-wettest winter on record was followed by its hottest summer. Baked to tinder in the extreme heat, the abundant vegetation of spring became the kindling for these autumn fires."

Further, she noted,

Thanks to the interplay between human-caused global warming, the legacy of historic fire suppression policies, and natural variability in drought cycles, California and the rest of the U.S. Southwest are likely to face this kind of devastating fire season even more often in the second half of this century.

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