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Fires, evacuations, power outages: California was hit by a thunderstorm with hundreds of lightning

Early Sunday morning, August 16, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area were awakened by a wild mixture of thunder, lightning, high winds and heavy rain - a powerful thunderstorm passed through the region just before sunrise. SF Gate.

Photo: Shutterstock

The forecast was lightning without rain, but the thunderstorms were more severe and wetter than expected, and at the end of the dry heat week, the weather came as a surprise to many. The weather was also unusual throughout California, where there is little storm activity during the summer months.

Hundreds of lightning strikes were recorded around 5 a.m., National Weather Service forecaster Drew Peterson said.

“We are seeing continuous lightning in the bay area, especially on the western side,” he said.

At 5:30, new storms broke over the ocean and approached the San Mateo Peninsula. An increase in storm activity was expected by 8 a.m., with NWS warnings of fallen trees and power lines, power outages, possible fires, and difficulty driving in windy conditions.

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The combination of lightning and strong winds has created a high risk of forest fires.

“This is the worst thing we would like to see in terms of weather for a fire to occur,” said Drew Peterson. - The entire region is flooded with lightning strikes. We receive numerous reports of fires. The problem is that the vegetation is really dry and the air is still quite dry. Any lightning strikes that hit the ground can start a fire. "

He added that thunderstorms and heat are two separate air masses, with the storm moving across the region at an altitude of about 10 feet (000 km), while hot air is only a few hundred feet above the Earth's surface.

Fires were not long in coming.

According to KTLA, lightning has sparked at least 8 fires in dry vegetation areas in Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

“Wild Night in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is probably the largest and most violent summer thunderstorm the Bay Area remembers, and one of the hottest nights in years, ”tweeted Daniel Swain, a climatologist at the University of California Los Angeles and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

A 3 acre (1,2 ha) bushfire is reported in the mountains south of Los Gatos in Santa Clara County. At 3:17 a.m., the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted that the flames had intensified due to wind and threatened buildings, and that due to power outages, officials had begun evacuating. However, the ensuing rain helped slow the spread of the fire.

Gusty winds arrived in the region ahead of the storm and continued to howl in the morning, with the highest wind speeds recorded, including a gust of 66 mph (106 km / h) at Atlas Peak in Napa, 48 mph (77 km / h ) on Mount Saint Helena in the North Bay and a 45 mph (72 km / h) gust on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County.

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The Severe Bushfire Warning was in effect throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding areas during Sunday, August 16. Thunderstorms are still possible on Monday, August 17, Peterson said.

Although the storms have caused the release of cooler air and rain, the heatwave is expected to continue until Wednesday, August 19, as the mass of hot air continues to settle across California.

Coastal areas are projected to warm up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) and above, areas along the bay range from 85 to 90 degrees Celsius (29-32 Celsius), and hinterlands in the range slightly below or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38 Celsius).

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