Fires

Where’s the rain? Northern California fire risk continues – with no precipitation in sight

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A lack of rain in recent weeks has created the dry conditions that helped the Kincade Fire explode in Sonoma County. And there’s no sign of rain coming any time soon, in wine country or almost anywhere in the Sacramento Valley or coastal range.

The National Weather Service’s Sacramento office said in a forecast report early Monday morning that “fire weather concerns will be somewhat elevated compared to early November normals with no precipitation in sight” for Northern California this week through next Monday.

Beyond the start of next week, an eight to 14 day precipitation outlook map by the NWS Climate Prediction Center shows that Northern California has about a 50 to 60 percent probability of receiving less precipitation than the historical normal amount for Nov. 4 through 10.

The weather service at 11 a.m. lifted its red flag warning as the high winds from the weekend eased. The warning came as warm temperatures, dry conditions and a lack of humidity combined with that wind. But the service said it expects to issue a new flag warning, indicating high fire danger, Tuesday morning, possibly as early as 8 a.m.

Weather service meteorologist Emily Heller said fire danger this week will be slightly less than it was during massive winds on Sunday, ”but conditions are still extremely dry, and we have ongoing fires.”

“It’s still a critical fire weather situation,” she added.

NWS warning coordination meteorologist Michelle Mead also said Tuesday’s conditions will be better than what happened over the weekend, when gusts reportedly exceeded 100 mph in some areas. PG&E equipment on Sunday recorded a burst of 102 mph in the area just east of Geyserville, where the Kincade Fire sparked Wednesday night.

Mead also noted the unfortunate timing: the weekend’s “drying or downslope wind event,” the strongest California has experienced this year by far, came when “we haven’t had any rain yet.”

“This time of year, October to November, is when we transition to our wet season, typically,” Mead said. “We’re used to the west-to-east onshore (winds). When we have this ridge of high pressure in place, north-to-south or east-to-west winds, it’s different.”

Map of Kincade Fire

The Kincade Fire evacuation area is inside the part of Sonoma County that PG&E shut down power on Thursday. Close the map key to view the map by pressing the "X" at the right.
Source: Sonoma County
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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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