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US ‘Devil Winds’ Drive Southern California Fires

06:05  31 october  2019
06:05  31 october  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

What’s driving the historic California high wind events, and worsening the wildfires

  What’s driving the historic California high wind events, and worsening the wildfires Powerful, dry, downsloping winds responsible for the California wildfires can be traced to the Great Basin region.This is the third year in row that these winds — known in the San Francisco Bay region as “Diablo Winds” and Santa Ana winds in southern California — have fanned devastating blazes in the Golden State, raising fears that these fiery sieges are part of a new normal. Evidence continues to mount that climate change is making their effects worse.

The winds , known as the Santa Anas, loom large over the collective psyche of Southern California . They have also been the defining antagonist in this season of fire , a sinister reminder that wind has the power to provoke fear and present danger in an instant. “ Devil winds ,” said Peter Sanders of the Los

An “extreme wind event” will relentlessly pummel the state of California through Friday, and it will be a challenge unlike anything firefighters in the

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Lost track of all the California fires? Here's what you need to know

  Lost track of all the California fires? Here's what you need to know As fires continue to burn across the state, a new blaze in Ventura County exploded to more than 8,000 acres Friday, prompting more evacuations and damaging at least two structures. The Maria fire broke out atop South Mountain, just south of Santa Paula, about 6:14 p.m. Thursday and was quickly burning toward the small agricultural towns of Somis and Saticoy. Fire officials say 1,800 structures are threatened by the growing blaze.The Times is offering fire coverage for free today. Please consider a subscription to support our journalism. Authorities issued mandatory evacuations for 7,500 people, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

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Southern California Edison turned off electricity to about 20,000 people in Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino and Kern counties but warned that thousands more could lose service as the Santa Ana winds gained strength. In Northern California , the lights were back on Friday for more than half of the

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The downsloping gusts that begin inland and blow toward the ocean in autumn and winter bring with them warmth and dread in equal measure. They howl through the canyons of Santa Monica and whip the palm trees that line the streets of Los Angeles, driving up dust and fraying nerves.

The winds, known as the Santa Anas, loom large over the collective psyche of Southern California. They have also been the defining antagonist in this season of fire, a sinister reminder that wind has the power to provoke fear and present danger in an instant.

“Devil winds,” said Peter Sanders of the Los Angeles Fire Department, referring to a popular nickname for the Santa Anas, which reached hurricane-level speeds in parts of the region on Wednesday and made fighting fire almost impossible.

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At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, firefighters and police officers stood guard near a wall of glass that protects the plane President Reagan used as Air Force One. Yards away, a ridge was lit up by bright-red encroaching flames and gray plumes of clouds, as aircraft flew low, dropping water and powerful retardant.

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  High-voltage power line broke near origin of massive California fire that forced thousands of evacuations After it sparked late Wednesday night, the fire spread rapidly. More than 16,000 acres were charred through Thursday night. At one point, it was growing at a rate of 30 football fields per minute. Authorities struggled against the strong winds Thursday, and the fire remained almost entirely uncontained by nightfall, state authorities said. No injuries have been reported, but nearly 50 structures have been damaged or destroyed. Meanwhile, 400 miles south, a rapidly expanding fire burned through Canyon Country, in northwestern Los Angeles County, covering more than 5,000 acres by Thursday evening.

The blaze threatening the library was the latest to ignite in more than a week of fierce wildfires that have burned up and down the state. As it crept close, thousands of residents in the valley had to flee their homes nearby.

Firefighters spoke of the gusts with a sense of fatalism, an act of nature they cannot get ahead of, and certainly cannot control. The fire near the library, known as the Easy fire, was uncontained on Wednesday night. “We can’t get in front of it because it puts us in harm’s way,” said Brian McGrath, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.

On the hillside at the library the wind was a terrible companion. To walk meant to move hunched over, slowly, both hands holding your hat. Shouts became whispers, drowned out by the hissing of flags flapping, and tree branches bending and cracking. A sign for the visitor parking lot, secured by sandbags, had easily toppled over.

The winds were pushing the smoke to the west, moving like gray mist across the blue sky — and making it possible to breathe — as firefighters and police officers watched the flames crackle through the dry, brown brush. When a helicopter appeared, buzzing low, and dropped its payload of water, a rainbow bloomed like a halo over the bruised landscape.

Up north, strong winds, known there as Diablo winds, flamed the Kincade fire, which had spread to over 75,000 acres on Wednesday.

With multiple fires burning, meteorologists and residents were looking at forecasts with a sense of foreboding: Predictions called for some of the strongest winds in a decade, and at least in Simi Valley those fears were well-founded.

Earthquake rattles area near California's Kincade Fire; new blaze by L.A. drives more evacuations

  Earthquake rattles area near California's Kincade Fire; new blaze by L.A. drives more evacuations Tens of thousands of residents who evacuated a sprawling Northern California wildfire fueled by high winds and drought conditions were rocked by another slap from Mother Nature on Monday when a magnitude 3.3 earthquake rattled the area. No damage or injuries were immediately reported from the temblor, centered a few miles from the roaring Kincade Fire, that struck at 1:10 a.m. The fire itself remained just 5% contained as it chewed through 85 square miles and almost 100 buildings.Another 80,000 homes, businesses and other buildings were threatened by the blaze that accounted for most of the state's 200,000 evacuees.

Though the Santa Anas are an annual occurrence, this year they were proving to be far worse and many residents said they felt different. With the effects of climate change combined with fierce fire seasons, the winds now seem more ominous.

For Karin Feldshuh, who moved to Los Angeles from New York last year, the feel of the wind triggers an emotional reaction.

“Anxiety,” she said on Tuesday. “I know with the fires brewing that embers can flow and wreak havoc.”

Seeing the wind forecast on Tuesday, Mr. McGrath said the department put in place bulldozers and fire crews to be ready in case of wildfire. Helicopters, which were flying Wednesday near the library, had been on standby all night. Fixed-wing aircraft had been grounded off and on Wednesday morning, as the winds shifted.

Robert Santos, a meteorologist for Spectrum News 1, a cable channel, said big temperature drops in the mountains and high desert would create cold, heavy air that would push out like the opening of a freezer, creating strong gusts toward the ocean.

The National Weather Service issued a rare “extreme red-flag warning,” saying the winds could trigger “extreme fire behavior.”

The Santa Anas have always had a grip on the literature and pop culture of the region. Most famously, the writer Joan Didion mused on the Santa Anas in her essay “Los Angeles Notebook.”

“It’s a fact of life for Angelenos, and for people who are newer to L.A. or Southern California it’s a favorite thing to comment on or complain about,” said Nathan Masters, a historian and writer at U.S.C. Libraries and the host of “Lost LA” on KCET, a public television station. “I think the reason is the Santa Ana winds are the dirty little secret behind the notion that L.A. has perfect weather.”

Mr. Masters produced a show on the history of the Santa Anas in 2012, and found that the winds — which have been blowing this way for thousands of years — were first described in print as the Santa Anas, named for a canyon southeast of Los Angeles, in a newspaper in 1880. He likened the winds to a bill that comes due every year for all those days of great weather.

California wildfires trigger statewide emergency, force 180,000 to evacuate

  California wildfires trigger statewide emergency, force 180,000 to evacuate The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County and the Tick Fire in Los Angeles County have collectively burned around 35,000 acres. Gov. Gavin NewsomPowerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the state.

“We have how many days of sunshine a year?” he said. “More than 300? And yet, from roughly October through January we can count on half the days being somewhat uncomfortable because of the dry air.”

Julien Kinori, 35, a writer in Los Angeles, brought up Ms. Didion on Tuesday, saying she talks about how “they’re these warm winds that are seemingly innocuous but there’s a certain darkness to them. Also a madness associated with them, that they make people go crazy.”

Officials with the Los Angeles Fire Department said they were monitoring the wind forecast and deploying fire crews all over the city and the San Fernando Valley, where the winds could be the strongest.

“The forecasted winds are as bad as we’ve ever seen, supposedly,” said Graham Everett, a deputy chief and chief of staff of the department.

fireworks in the night sky: High winds carried away embers from the Kincade fire in Sonoma County, Calif., on Tuesday.© Jim Wilson/The New York Times High winds carried away embers from the Kincade fire in Sonoma County, Calif., on Tuesday.

Mr. Everett, 53, who has been with the department for 30 years, said the department had identified which canyons — the spaces where the winds can be the most furious — in Los Angeles have not burned in a long time, and could light up at any point.

In the area of the Getty fire, which erupted early Monday in a wealthy enclave of western Los Angeles — burning down several multimillion-dollar homes near the Getty Center and its priceless artworks — fire crews were patrolling neighborhoods, looking for spots that were still smoldering.

“Because we do know the winds are coming in,” he said.

While many Angelenos this time of year feel that pinch of anxiety when the winds kick up, for firefighters it is a different emotion, he said.

“I wouldn’t call it dread,” he said. “It’s anticipation. It’s what we do. It’s game day. We prep for this.”

The winds could reach 50 to 80 miles per hour in the areas of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, putting them, possibly, at the “upper end of people’s historical experience,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. He said he predicted more heavy winds through Thursday. “There’s still a pretty long period of winds still to come,” Mr. Swain said.

As the day wore on in Simi Valley, firefighters were confident the blaze would not threaten the Reagan library, where a helicopter peered out from the glass enclosure as the fires raged outside, and the flags of the presidents hissed in the wind.

Arit John contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

Arit John contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

California wildfires trigger statewide emergency, force 180,000 to evacuate .
The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County and the Tick Fire in Los Angeles County have collectively burned around 35,000 acres. Gov. Gavin NewsomPowerful winds were fanning wildfires in northern California in "potentially historic fire" conditions, authorities said, as tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate and sweeping power cuts began in the state.

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