Fires

How windy is Northern California? Gusts continue after blustery Wednesday

8 a.m. Thursday update: Several regions across Northern California have seen gusty winds in Thursday’s early morning hours, according to the National Weather Service.

Gusts peaked between 35 and 45 mph near Redding; near Vacaville and Fairfield in Solano County; in east Placer County; and in parts of Lake, Napa and Yolo counties, the NWS Sacramento office said in a tweet. Sacramento County has seen gusts up to 32 mph between midnight and 5 a.m.

NWS forecasts call for winds to be slightly weaker Thursday throughout the Sacramento Valley than they were Wednesday, but a wind advisory remains in effect through 6 p.m. as gusts between 40 and 55 mph remain possible.

The NWS has also extended its red flag warning through Friday morning for the foothills and mountains, while the warning remains set to expire at 9 p.m. Thursday for the Sacramento Valley.

Original story:

Gusts are picking up speed across Northern California as the significant wind event that has prompted PG&E to shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers hits the Sacramento Valley.

Local NWS forecasts and a fire weather outlook report from the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center predict that north-northeasterly sustained winds up to 35 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph, are possible throughout a patch of the western Sacramento Valley and eastern Coastal Range, where wildfire risk will be “extremely critical” through Thursday. Those winds are expected to peak Wednesday afternoon or evening, according to the storm center.

This 6,475-square-mile region of highest fire risk includes the cities of Vacaville, Clearlake and Red Bluff, where a combined total of more than 280,000 people live.

Prior to 10 a.m., gusts have already reached 42 mph just northeast of Red Bluff, 38 mph just east of Clearlake, and have ranged from 20 to 25 mph near Vacaville and Fairfield.

As of 10 a.m., the heaviest gust observed in California came at Jarbo Gap in Butte County, where winds whirred up to 53 mph just before 9:15 a.m., according to National Weather Service data. Gusts near 45 mph were also recorded in Redding.

So far Wednesday morning, the windiest conditions have been observed throughout the northern and western portions of the Sacramento Valley.

Winds have also have approached 30 mph downtown Sacramento, as tree branches could be seen rocking and flags flapping quickly against flag poles. Gusts hit 27 mph downtown just before 10 a.m., according to the NWS. Winds near 20 mph and gusts of nearly 30 mph have been recorded throughout Sacramento County.

The extreme fire risk comes as these gusty wind conditions combine with very low daytime humidities and poor overnight humidity recovery throughout most of interior Northern California.

The NWS issued a wind advisory in place through noon Thursday, warning that north gusts between 40 and 55 mph could affect a wide swath of the Sacramento valley, as well as the northern and central Sierra Nevada foothills.

Gusts that strong have the potential to down tree branches or weakened trees, as well as making driving difficult.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
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