How the weather fueled the California wildfires
Amy Lieberfarb/Instagram (SANTA ANA, Calif.) — An unfortunate combination of wind and aridity in California created perfect wildfire growth conditions this morning, leading to the current devastation across the state.
At least 10 people have died from the blazes, with hundreds of structures scorched and thousands forced to evacuate. The fires began around 10 p.m. local time Sunday night, said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
By Monday afternoon, nearly 90,000 acres burned and the flames threatened the large city of Anaheim.
Here’s how the weather conditions fueled a fast-moving fire and destruction from north to south.
California wildfires and weather
In northern California, strong, northeasterly gusts paired with low humidity in the morning. The gusts facilitated a quick spread of the fire.
In southern California, a Santa Ana wind event fueled the fires. October is peak time for Santa Ana winds, which create high pressure over the Great Basin and low pressure off the coast, allowing for very strong offshore winds. October is traditionally the worst time to fight fires in California, Pimlott said this the morning.
On Monday, gusts reached up to 70 miles per hour in some high elevation areas in southern California.
This, paired with the dry conditions brought about by low humidity, created critical fire danger.
California Gov. Jerry Brown stressed the danger of these simultaneous conditions in a press conference this morning.
“This is really serious. It’s moving fast. The heat, the lack of humidity and the winds are all driving a very dangerous situation and making it worse,” Brown said.
There is good news, however — because though the winds flared this morning, they’re now likely to weaken. The worst of the winds passed earlier Monday in both northern and southern California.
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