Sierra Nevada Fire Smolders as California Gets a Burst of Rain

Photo A massive storm drenched drought-stricken California on Thursday, bringing more than an inch of rain to coastal areas in the Bay Area, and lifting far-flung areas out of extreme fire danger. In the…

Sierra Nevada Fire Smolders as California Gets a Burst of Rain

Photo

A massive storm drenched drought-stricken California on Thursday, bringing more than an inch of rain to coastal areas in the Bay Area, and lifting far-flung areas out of extreme fire danger.

In the mountains, where a huge, fast-moving fire broke out over the weekend, the arrival of the rain “brought some relief to still devastated, dangerous areas,” said Melissa Subbotin, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Flooding conditions remained a problem in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where a massive fire that recently scorched 220,000 acres was still burning.

And in Southern California, where severe drought conditions have been worsening since 2015, the storm had a particularly low moisture content.

Last summer, when much of Southern California experienced record-high temperatures, the moisture content of the SoCal monsoons was just above 1 percent. The current storm could contain a relatively meager 1.5 percent moisture content.

For comparison, summer storms originating over the Gulf of Alaska usually contain 10 to 20 percent moisture.

The danger remains in the form of strong wind gusts, which caused temporary closures to the 405 freeway in Los Angeles and were also blamed for toppling trees across the area.

Gusts reached up to 70 mph in some locations — a record — and state officials were warning drivers to avoid the highways, except in cases of emergency.

Along the coast, the storm brought minimal fall-out for some communities.

At the southernmost tip of Sonoma County, Escondido — a city near San Diego on the state’s famed coast — could end up with close to an inch of rain this week. Only the tiniest trickle is predicted in San Luis Obispo, but residents there can still expect highs of the upper 70s on Friday.

Four to 8 inches of rain has fallen in some parts of the Sierra, where the Pineapple Express has sent massive quantities of moisture into the Western United States this week.

In Yosemite National Park, one of the most popular spots for tourists in the United States, as many as 100 fire helicopters and airplanes will descend over the park on Friday.

But unlike last year, when an unusually large number of wildfires raged in California, much of the precipitation this summer has been slated to fall in the Sierra.

Already, over two years of drought have burned down swaths of the California forests and could lead to years of recovery work. So far this year, there have been 31,000 wildfires in California, more than twice the number of the year prior.

The storm has already helped California officials with drought relief efforts. In March, Governor Jerry Brown allocated about $90 million to wildfire response, money that this week has already been used to help fight a massive, deadly brush fire that broke out in Santa Rosa on Saturday, part of a series of deadly fires in California in recent weeks.

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