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California fire danger reaches epic proportions

Red flag fire warnings now cover nearly  half of California...
Red flag fire warnings now cover nearly half of California...
Gary London

Red flag warnings in effect up and down the state.

For the first time in recent memory, nearly half the state of California is covered by red flag warnings issued Thursday by the National Weather Service.

Another round of dry offshore winds, unprecedented drought, vegetation at “historically” dry levels has resulted in warnings up and down the Golden State.

From north of the Oregon border to the state's border with Mexico, warnings take effect along nearly the entire western half of California. A portion of the central Sierra Nevada range is included in the warning in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe.

Once again, strong high pressure has built into the western states, with multiple centers in excess of 1032 millibars extending southward from Washington State to Colorado. At the same time, lower surface pressures along the entire west coast have tightened offshore pressure gradients, resulting in strong, low level northeast to southeast winds for large portions of California.

These conditions are expected to reach a maximum early Friday, with wind gusts ranging from 25 to 40 mph in many areas, and some mountain canyon and pass areas could see gusts as high as 70 mph. Nearly all mountain areas in southern California are included in these warnings.

Forecast models offer little hope at this time for much needed rainfall. While some weakening of high pressure is indicated by Saturday, long range data suggests surface and upper level ridging will more or less remain in place at least for the next 5 to 7 days with continuing surface high pressure over the interior western U.S.

For Los Angeles, a weak marine layer may lessen the fire threat slightly by Saturday along immediate coastal areas.

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