Forecasters say the Santa Ana wind event whipping up the destructive blazes that leveled homes, highways and major swaths of Southern California infrastructure is the strongest of its kind this year. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in the region as a result of the fires.
The declaration will free up federal assistance to “supplement State, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from wildfires beginning on December 4, 2017, and continuing.”
An estimated 141,000 to 150,000 acres stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego have been scorched since the fires kicked up Monday, according to fire safety officials; some 200,000 residents have fled their homes and businesses.
President Trump’s declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to “coordinate all disaster relief efforts and help ease the hardship on the local populations.”
The Sacramento Bee sums up which and where the six major wildfires are burning in the Southern California region:
“The Creek, Liberty, Lilac, Rye, Skirball and Thomas fires in Ventura, San Diego, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, which started between Monday and Thursday, have prompted the evacuation of close to 200,000 residents, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.”
Satellite images such as the lead image are tracking the plumes of smoke from space.
The hot, dry, notorious winds had died down Wednesday, giving firefighters a little headroom to battle back the existing fires, but forecasters expected more winds Thursday evening and Friday.
“Retirement communities built on golf courses, thoroughbreds in race horse stables and other usually serene sites” have been swept up in the blazes in the San Diego area,” the Associated Press reported Friday.
Fox News Channel reported that more than 85 structures in San Diego had been leveled.
NASA’s Earth Observatory has posted some amazing images, and picked up a quote from one of its own in the L.A. Times coverage:
A prolonged spell of dry weather also primed the area for major fires. This week’s winds follow nine of the driest consecutive months in Southern California history, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert told the Los Angeles Times. “Pile that onto the long drought of the past decade and a half, [and] we are in apocalyptic conditions,” he said.
In this image seen at left, taken with NASA’s Terra satellite, the Earth Observatory website notes the plumes are coming from the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, which had charred more than 65,000 acres as of Friday.
“The fires mainly affected a forested, hilly area north of Ventura, but flames have encroached into the northern edge of the city. On December 6, 2017, Cal Fire estimated that at least 12,000 structures were threatened by fire.
“Forecasters with the Los Angeles office of the National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for Los Angles and Ventura counties through December 8, noting that isolated wind gusts of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour are possible.”
Investing sites have been keeping an eye on utilities that serve the region. Seeking Alpha reports:
“Southern California Edison International (EIX) has taken a real beating, being the second large electric power provider which has seen a substantial drop in its share price following the wildfires in California. This follows the serious correction which PG&E (PCG) has seen in October following wildfires at the time. The market seems to believe that the impact of the fire is very bad, as shares of the company plunged 13%, losing a full $10 in value in response to the news about the fires. This corresponds to a $3.3 billion reduction in the value of the company.”
Southern California Edison reports that it serves 15 million residents through 5 million accounts in a 50,000 square mile area in Southern California.
We’ve read through a ton of coverage today on the ongoing fires. The New York Times does a great job on in-depth maps (their graphic department is legendary).
But for comprehensive coverage of the areas affected and how to get more information, the ongoing SacBee coverage deserves kudos.