California Fire Risk Eases With Rains Spreading in Parched State

California’s wildfire threat could ease over the next few weeks, with a series of storms bringing much-needed moisture after heat and drought torched record acreage in the state.

The first downpour is already spreading across Northern California Friday, and that will be followed by progressively stronger systems through next week, said Anthony Fracasso, a forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

For months, weather patterns have pumped warm, dry winds across California, spreading wildfires that have caused utilities to cut power to hundreds of thousands of residents in a preemptive effort to prevent live wires from sparking more blazes. While normally the state replenishes most of its water supplies during December to February, more than 78% of California faces drought conditions this year, U.S. Drought Monitor data show.

“They are finally getting some much-needed rain and snow,” according to Fracasso, who said having the storms spaced out over several days will also help limit damage from mudslides as rain hits the many areas that were burned across California in the last few years.

California Fire Risk Eases With Rains Spreading in Parched State

While the pattern shift brings optimism, it doesn’t mean this is the end of California’s wildfire season, which set records in 2020.

“I don’t know if it will end the wind-driven fire season for California, but there should be a reprieve and dampen fire potential for at least the next 2-3 weeks,” said Nicholas Nauslar, a fire weather meteorologist with the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center.

California Fire Risk Eases With Rains Spreading in Parched State

The crackling dry conditions have left vegetation across California ready to burn and the dry winds, known as Santa Anas in the southern part of the state, have kept the fire season going deep into winter.

“Climatologically, there is the possibility for strong Santa Ana winds in February, but hopefully, this pattern change will provide enough moisture to the fuels to limit fire potential for a while,” Nauslar said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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