Coastal storm cools California heatwave, dampens wildfires

Tropical storm poses flood threat to California


Southern California faces potential flooding from Tropical Storm Kay

02:05

Southern California welcomed cooler temperatures and spotty rain on Saturday as a tropical storm drifted and faded off the Pacific coast, helping to end a blistering heat wave that nearly overwhelmed the state’s power grid.

Thunderstorms were forecast for the Los Angeles area on Saturday that could continue in mountainous areas on Sunday. But after Hurricane Kay made landfall in Mexico this week, it was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm and weakened further until it largely dissipated, said John Dumas, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, adding that the scattered rain that falls in the region is leftover moisture from a storm that has been.

‘Is the worst over? Yes,’ said Dumas.

In Southern California, cooler temperatures and humidity calmed firefighters battling the huge Fairview Fire about 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles, after blistering heat this week pushed temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in many locations.

The fire has threatened more than 10,000 homes and other buildings, but firefighters have made progress and said they expect complete containment on Monday.

Fire officials warned, however, that communities in Northern California are still at risk from a heat wave and wildfires, and there is a chance of lightning Sunday in the northern Sierra. In the foothills east of Sacramento, the Mosquito Fire spread to at least 51 square miles on Saturday, threatening 36,000 homes in Placer and El Dorado counties and shrouding the region in smoke.

“We are not seeing a corresponding drop in fire activity at this time,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Issac Sanchez.

The National Weather Service predicted an end to the debilitating heat wave in the Los Angeles area on Saturday. A flood watch remained in place in mountainous areas previously charred by wildfires until the end of the day, and there was the potential for some coastal flooding from high surf, Dumas said.

In Southern California, officials in coastal towns posted warning signs and made sandbags available to residents, fearing flooding. Minor flooding was reported in a beachfront parking lot and on some local roads in parched desert communities around Palm Springs.

Some mountain communities east of San Diego reported several inches of rain early Saturday, while low-lying coastal areas saw less than an inch of rain.

In Huntington Beach, Orange County, it was hot, muggy and drizzly Saturday as Aaron French, 30, played disc golf with friends. An afternoon breeze made playing more comfortable after a week of stifling heat and humidity.

“It’s been a wild, wild week of weather,” French said, whizzing a drive through the unusually quiet park. “You just have to accept that the weather is the weather and live your life no matter what’s going on.”

September has already produced one of the hottest and longest heat waves ever recorded in California and some other western states. Nearly 54 million people received heat warnings and advisories across the region this week as temperature records were broken in many areas.

California’s capital, Sacramento, reached a record high of 116 degrees on Tuesday, breaking a 97-year-old record. The state set a record for power consumption on Tuesday as air conditioners buzzed amid the heat and authorities instituted near-rolling blackouts as grid capacity was at breaking point.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and that the weather will continue to make more extremes and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most devastating fires in state history.

Firefighters said on Saturday they were unable to rally any part of the Mosquito Fire, which has burned down near the town of Foresthill, which is home to about 1,500 people. David Hance was sleeping on the porch of his mother’s mobile home in Foresthill when he woke early Wednesday to a glowing red sky and was ordered to evacuate.

“It was pretty damn terrifying, because they say, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s getting closer,'” he said. “It was like sunset in the middle of the night.”

The fire has blanketed much of the region with smoke, and California health officials urged people in affected areas to stay indoors whenever possible. Tour de Tahoe organizers canceled the annual 72-mile bike ride scheduled for Sunday around Lake Tahoe due to heavy smoke from the fire — more than 80 miles away. Last year’s ride was canceled due to smoke from another major fire south of Tahoe.

The cause of the Mosquito Fire remains under investigation. Pacific Gas & Electric said unspecified “electrical activity” occurred close to Tuesday’s report of the fire.

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