California wind, and fire danger, hits unprecedented high (Update)
December 6, 2017 by Amanda Lee Myers And Andrew Dalton
Southern California has felt yellow wind, orange wind, and red wind. But never purple wind. Until now.
The color-coded system showing the expected strength of the winds driving the region's fierce wildfires has reached uncharted territory, pushing past red, which means "high" into the color that means "extreme."
"The forecast for tomorrow is purple," said Ken Pimlott, director at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "We've never used purple before."
Southern California has already been hit hard by three major fires that have put tens of thousands of people under evacuation orders and destroyed at nearly 200 homes and buildings, a figure that is almost certain to grow.
But the hard-won progress of firefighters could be erased Thursday.
"We're talking winds that can surface that can be 80 miles an hour," Pimlott said. "These will be winds that there will no ability to fight fires."
Such winds can instantly turn a tiny fire into a large one, or carry embers that spark new fires miles away.
Millions of cellphones buzzed loudly Tuesday night from San Diego to Santa Barbara with a sound that usually means an Amber Alert, but this time meant a rare weather warning for strong winds making extreme fire danger.
Officials hope the electronic push will keep the whole region alert and keep the death toll from the week's fires at zero.
Melissa Rosenzweig, 47, was briefly back home Tuesday after evacuating from her Ventura house, which has been spared so far while most on her street had burned in the largest and most destructive of the region's fires. She and her husband were about to evacuate again, hoping they will get lucky twice as the new winds arrive.
"Heck yeah I'm still worried," Rosenzweig said. "We're very grateful but I know we're not out of the woods."
In what may have been an early sign of the 140-square-mile fire getting new life, several thousand new evacuations were ordered late Tuesday night in Ojai, a town of artists and resorts. The blaze had been creeping there already, but an increase in winds pushed it close enough for many more to flee.
The wilder winds could easily send make new fires explode too, as one did Wednesday in Los Angeles' exclusive Bel-Air section, where a fire consumed multimillion-dollar houses that give the rich and famous sweeping views of Los Angeles.
Little flame was visible by late Tuesday, but in the morning fire exploded on the steep slopes of Sepulveda Pass, closing a section of heavily traveled Interstate 405 and destroying four homes.
Flames burned a wine storage shed at media mogul Rupert Murdoch's 16-acre (6.5-hectare) Moraga Vineyards estate and appeared to have damaged about 7 acres (2.8 hectares) of vines, a spokeswoman said.
Across the wide I-405 freeway from the fire, the Getty Center art complex was closed to protect its collection from smoke damage. Many schools across Los Angeles were closed because of poor air quality and classes were canceled at 265 schools Thursday.
Back in the beachside city of Ventura, the fire killed more than two dozen horses at a stable and had destroyed at least 150 structures, a number that was expected to get far bigger as firefighters are able to assess losses.
Air tankers that had been grounded much of the week because of high winds flew on Wednesday, dropping flame retardant. Firefighters rushed to attack the fires before winds picked up again.
"We're basically in an urban firefight in Ventura, where if you can keep that house from burning, you might be able to slow the fire down," said Tim Chavez, a fire behavior specialist at the blaze. "But that's about it."
As crews gained on the wildfires in California wine country, new blazes broke out in other parts of the state, including a fire in the mountains above Los Angeles that threatened a historic observatory Tuesday and more flames ...
Growing global food demand, climate change, and climate policies favoring bioenergy production are expected to increase pressures on water resources around the world. Many analysts predict that water shortages will constrain ...
Nitrogen is essential to marine life and cycles throughout the ocean in a delicately balanced system. Living organisms—especially marine plants called phytoplankton—require nitrogen in processes such as photosynthesis. ...
China's croplands have experienced drastic changes in management practices related to fertilization, tillage and residue treatment since the 1980s. The impact of these changes on soil organic carbon (SOC) has drawn major ...
Swarms of tiny oceanic organisms known collectively as zooplankton may have an outsize influence on their environment. New research at Stanford shows that clusters of centimeter-long individuals, each beating tiny feathered ...
Using genetic samples and computer simulations, evolutionary biologists have made a glass-half-full forecast: Corals in the Great Barrier Reef have enough genetic variation to adapt to and survive rising ocean temperatures ...
A Dutch-Texan team found that most Houston-area drowning deaths from Hurricane Harvey occurred outside the zones designated by government as being at higher risk of flooding: the 100- and 500-year floodplains. Harvey, one ...
Please sign in to add a comment.
Registration is free, and takes less than a minute.
Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.