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Like a Category 2 hurricane: Fire-fueling wind gusts top 100 mph in California

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The National Weather Service and PG&E reported multiple instances of wind gusts exceeding 100 mph over the weekend in Northern California, including in the immediate area of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County.

A 107-mph gust was recorded 2 miles southwest of Alpine Meadows in the Lake Tahoe area during the 24-hour period ending 3 p.m. Sunday, according to the service. A 103-mph gust was also recorded at one point between 8 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday, the weather service’s Sacramento office said in a tweet Sunday morning.

PG&E says its equipment recorded a 102-mph gust near Pine Flat Road, located in the hills just east of Geyserville, about 8 a.m. Sunday.

The six highest wind speeds recorded Sunday across PG&E’s service area all came in Sonoma County, including a 93-mph gust in the north Healdsburg hills, the utility company said in a news release announcing the weather “all clear” to begin power restoration activity.

The National Weather Services forecasts call for yet another severe wind event by midweek, with gusts as high as 60 mph predicted for the Redding area Tuesday into early Wednesday. The Redding Municipal Airport saw gusts up to 66 mph over the weekend, the weather service said.

Wind speeds in the low 100-mph range are comparable to the strength of a category 2 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center, though the triple-digit winds observed in Northern California were gusts rather than sustained wind speeds.

However, 107 mph still doesn’t come close to the statewide all-time record of 199-mph, which was set February 20, 2017, at Ward Peak in Alpine Meadows, according to the National Climate Data Center’s Extremes Committee.

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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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