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A dry February could increase wildfire danger in Northern California

February has been dry, so far. Some fire crews in the state are already getting ready for fire danger.

Posted: Feb 13, 2020 8:58 AM

CALIFORNIA - February has been dry, so far. Some fire crews in the state are already getting ready for fire danger.

At the National Weather Service, satellite imagery shows a strong ridge of high pressure that has built up over the western states. This pattern, typically seen in the summer, is forcing storms well to the north.

What's more, the long-range 14-day outlook shows that this pattern is likely to continue. And if it does, CAL FIRE said it's a mixed bag for increased fire danger.

"There is some growth happening, but without any more rain, you're not going to see a large grass crop," CAL FIRE, Mike Marcucci said. "But it does dry out our brush and our timber models to critical levels a lot earlier than we normally see, sometime around July or August."

A weekly report from the U.S. Drought Monitor designates just over 9.5% of the state, including the central and southern Sierra Nevada and adjacent areas of the Central Valley, as being in moderate drought.

California had been drought-free since early December.

The Drought Monitor also expanded a designation of “abnormally dry” into San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles Counties, and parts of northeastern California.

A week earlier the abnormally dry status applied to the Central Valley and a swath from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Sierra, as well as parts of the California-Oregon border.

The National Weather Service office for the Los Angeles region said no change in the dry pattern is expected in the next two weeks and if there’s no rain many locations will be nearing the driest combined January and February on record.

State water authorities have noted that, fortunately, reservoirs are either at or above historical averages due to a wet 2019.

The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources reported that February 2019 had a total of 15 days in the month with rain.

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A late-season winter storm arrives Saturday and stays through Tuesday. Expect 1-2 inches of Valley rain, 1-3 feet of mountain snow, and even some thunderstorms on Sunday. The heaviest precipitation will occur on Sunday.
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