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Santa Ana Winds, Heat Bring Increased Risk Of Wildfires In San Diego County

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Santa Ana winds will sweep through parts of San Diego County Monday as temperatures heat up amid low humidity, significantly raising the risk of wildfires throughout the region, according to the National Weather Service.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Most of San Diego County is under a red flag warning today as temperatures rise, humidity, plummets and Santa Ana winds pick up, especially inland as the potential for fire increases here. Several wildfires are burning through California's wine country. With 11,000 acres burned and thousands of people leaving their homes to escape the flames. San Diego is dangerous. Weather is expected to continue with unseasonable heat in the forecast almost to the end of the week. Joining me is national weather service meteorologist Alex tardy, Alex,

Speaker 2: 00:35 Come back. Thanks for having me on.

Speaker 1: 00:38 And what kind of weather conditions should we expect today in various parts of San Diego?

Speaker 2: 00:44 Okay, well right now, uh, Monday morning, you know, we're looking at Santa Ana winds already picked up across our back country, our foothills and the mountains. It's important to understand when we talk about Santa Ana winds, it's coming from the East, it's a dry wind. It comes across the deserts. And what it typically means is increased fire danger. And that's the case today. Um, it doesn't mean you'll feel wind at the coast or the beach. In fact, that'll be calm the next couple of days, but what it does mean is very dry, hot conditions, basically removing the ocean Marine air that we love to have. And we've been having cool nights lately because of it removes all of that and brings the desert air over San Diego County,

Speaker 1: 01:27 More severe red flag warning than last time when we saw the start of the Valley fire,

Speaker 2: 01:32 I would say, you know, there's similar. The difference with the Valley fire start was we had all time record highs. So it was 110 to up to 115 between Alpine and alcohol that Saturday when the Valley fire erupted. So just dangerous heat, all time heat and this particular event, it's going to be hot. It's going to be between a hundred and 105 along the I 15 corridor and points East up to Alpine. So that's hot, but that's not as hot. Um, wind speeds should be very similar. So our back country, you know, has already seen wind gusts, 30, 40 miles per hour. Those wind speeds will happen again. And I think they're going to peak out. We'll see our strongest winds in San Diego County foothills actually Tuesday morning. So the red flag warning has been extended into Tuesday morning. Now

Speaker 1: 02:26 We've been hearing for weeks about fires, ravaging areas in Northern California. How has their weather been different from ours?

Speaker 2: 02:35 Yeah, so basically what's been happening really since July, but especially in August and September is the heat waves that have been occurring over Southern California have actually extended far North all the way up to Oregon across Nevada. So what we've been seeing is very broad, extreme, warm temperatures. In fact, August was the hottest on record. All of California. I think September is going to come in pretty close to being one of the all time hottest across our area. We've never seen conditions like this hot and really statewide all across the region. And that's bottom line been driving some of these fires. Now on top of that, we have seen some, a wind events even in September and the fire that's ongoing right now in Napa Santa Rosa area. That's a wind driven fire. So that wind that they received on Sunday is now just moving down here into San Diego County. So it's a combination of things, but overall temperatures have been driving. Temperatures make things dry. They make the fuels or the vegetation dry and really susceptible to any fire start.

Speaker 1: 03:44 You know, I heard in the forecast that even though the red flag warning is going to be expiring probably tomorrow, uh, that dangerous fire conditions will continue. What's the difference between dangerous fire conditions on a red flag warning?

Speaker 2: 03:58 Yeah. So that's a good question. So typically when we talk about red flag warning, think of a flag, uh, you know, when the wind blows, the flag is showing itself off and, and it's very obvious what's going to happen this week is sure we're seeing the wind now. And we're going to see the wind intensify and be even stronger again. And the foothills and the mountains of San Diego County, not on the beaches, not on the coastal cities, those areas will become, but when we get into Wednesday and Thursday, people are going to be complaining cause the heat's not going to go away. It's going to be just as hot even in some of our coastal areas. But the difference on Wednesday and Thursday is the wind's going to be much lighter. So we don't have the red flag conditions per se, with the wind. But if you have a fire start when the temperature is 102 and the humidity's 10% and given how dry the fuels are that we talked about, that fire is still going to burn. It just may not be as fast or as aggressive. It's still going to be dangerous.

Speaker 1: 04:54 Is there any break insight from these hot and dangerous fire conditions across California?

Speaker 2: 04:59 I actually have some good news. So mid-October, it does look like a cooling trend and actually maybe temperatures back to average or even a little bit below average and in mid-October and dare I say, even maybe some precipitation, at least for parts of California, kink guarantee will be wet in Southern California, but there is a slight chance then unfortunately the latter half of October is looking really warm or warmer than it should be. And we're probably going to get back into those Santa Ana conditions. So we've got about a week here all the way through, you know, next weekend to deal with this heat and in a very slow cool-down next Friday and Saturday, very slow. Cool down next Friday, Saturday, but the good news is middle of October. It does look like a little break. So maybe we'll have like a week of coolish type fallish weather.

Speaker 1: 05:50 Good. Thank you, Alex, for that little bit of good news, I've been speaking with national weather service meteorologist Alex tardy. Thanks so much.

Speaker 2: 06:00 No, thank you for having me on.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.