Friday, December 8, 2017

Wildfires - How And Why Are They Dangerous? Another Curse?

Source → Active fire detections from NASA EOSDIS. Note - Fire footprints are based on most recent available data.
PRAY CALIFORNIA - The fire and a smaller one 12 miles (19 kilometers) north in the city of Murrieta broke out the day after state officials sent an unprecedented alert to cell phones across seven Southern California counties warning that strong Santa Ana winds could cause extreme fire danger!

The bone-dry Santa Ana winds blowing from the northeast picked up speed, gusting to 60 miles per hour in places, adding to firefighters’ struggles with thick brush and rugged terrain, though it did not reach the extreme speeds forecasters had feared. Officials warned that with several large fires that were still burning (and no more than 15 percent contained), as well as winds that, though easing a bit, were expected to remain high on Friday, dangerous surprises could still be in store.

As if to illustrate the danger, several new fires cropped up across Southern California. A fire near Bonsall in San Diego County ignited and within hours spread to more than 4,000 acres with zero containment. It injured at least three people as hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate and at least 20 structures were destroyed.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency in San Diego County on Thursday evening as local officials there widened the evacuation zone and warned that conditions were expected to worsen.

It wasn’t all bad news, though. By Thursday night, several top local and state officials said they were encouraged by improving conditions in the city and county of Los Angeles. And as a result, officials announced that some Angelenos would be allowed to return home starting Thursday evening.

The alert came hours after Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told reporters that a color-coded danger scale had reached purple, which was never used previously, and winds could reach 80 mph.

Purple is part of the "Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index " produced by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Interagency Coordination Center's Predictive Services and other collaborators to categorize Santa Ana winds according to fire potential.

The threat index uses a predictive model that incorporates moisture levels of dead and live vegetation and weather models, including wind speeds and atmospheric moisture, to produce a six-day forecast for potentially large fires. The result is then compared to climate data and the historical record of fires to create the rating.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service said there was a "burst" of winds Wednesday night that subsided and that it appeared models may have "over forecast" Thursday's wind event.

Nonetheless, parts of Southern California still were buffeted by strong winds, including 88 mph (142 kph) in San Diego County and 85 mph (137 kph) in Ventura County, where the largest fire is burning.


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