By John Lawrence
As July drew to a close, 8000 firefighters were battling 18 large fires in the state of California. A lot of people are being forced to evacuate their homes. In fact evacuations are becoming a way of life. Triple digit temperatures, bone-dry vegetation and gusty winds are spreading fires everywhere.
A fast-spreading wildfire north of San Francisco has torched homes and is threatening more than 450 structures. At least 650 residents have been evacuated from their homes as the blaze raged in hills covered in dense brush and oak trees and dotted with ranch homes. 23 square miles near Lower Lake, south of Clear Lake, have been charred.
A separate fire near the small town of Isleton in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta burned six or seven mobile homes. Residents of 200 homes in the central California community of Cascadel Woods were ordered to evacuate last Thursday.
Crews battling a fire east of Napa Valley were making progress last Friday, more than a week after it started. The blaze has charred more than 12 square miles in Solano County. The fire is about 45 miles east of Napa’s wine country, and vineyards are not threatened.
Crews continue to battle a fast-spreading wildfire in Lake County, which has grown to 18,000 acres and forced additional evacuations last week. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Jerusalem Valley area, east of Soda Creek.
Governor Brown has declared a state of emergency for California’s fires. “California’s severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox,” Brown said.
Record Heat on Three Continents
The month of July had barely started when all kinds of weather related records began to fall. Brutally hot conditions fried portions of three continents during the first three days of July, and four nations have already set all-time July national heat records this month: the Netherlands, the U.K., Thailand, and Colombia. The temperature in Maastricht, the Netherlands, hit 100.8°F on July 2, setting an all-time July heat record for the nation. According to data from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, only two other hotter temperatures have been recorded in the nation: 101.5°F, on August 23, 1944 at Warnsveld, and 101.1°F, on June 27, 1947 at Maastricht.
On July 3, the mercury hit 106°F at Kamalasai, Thailand, setting a mark for the hottest July temperature ever recorded in that nation. On July 1, Urumitia, Colombia beat that nation’s all-time July national heat record, with a 108°F reading. Urumitia also set Colombia’s all-time June heat with a 107.6°F mark. In Europe, the hottest temperatures were over Central France, where Clermont Ferrand hit 104°F.
Record Rain Storm Drops an Inch of Rain on San Diego
Here at home an unusual rain storm which recorded over an inch of rain hit San Diego on July 18. San Diego rarely gets more than a trace of rain in July. By 5 PM San Diego’s Lindbergh Field had recorded 1.03 inches of rain, which is more precipitation than the city had received during the entire month of July dating back to 1902.
The storm left trees down on houses in Tierra Santa, one of which was rendered uninhabitable. The trees toppled while a couple and two young children were inside one house, but they got out safely. Power outages impacted neighborhoods in Logan Heights, Mountain View and Lincoln Park, with approximately 3,918 residents without power.
In parts of Ocean Beach, Midway District and Lindbergh Field, nearly 2,100 customers were without power. In Coronado, power was knocked out for about 1,700 residents.
In San Diego County, the hardest-hit area was in rural Ramona east of Escondido, where streets flooded, several cars were half-submerged, and some homes were flooded.
The unstable air generated more than 500 lightning strikes, one of which started a small brush fire in Del Mar’s Crest Canyon. Another lightning strike at the same time caused a small grass fire at Marion Bear Memorial Park in Clairemont. Fire crews had to back off for a short time when lightning struck four more times nearby and power lines were downed, a San Diego fire dispatcher said.
Elsewhere in Southern California a washed-out bridge on Interstate 10 cut off a vital shipping route with Arizona. There were mudslides in Moreno Valley and freeway traffic was snarled from heavy weekend rain on July 18-19. The weekend storm that washed over the region was not only remarkable for its timing – July rain storms are rare events in Southern California – but for its strength, the National Weather Service said.
The threat of lightning strikes forced authorities to close 70 miles of Los Angeles County beaches as well as the popular Santa Monica Pier on Saturday afternoon. An LA Angels baseball game was canceled because of rain for the first time in 20 years.
Wildfire Torches Vehicles on Freeway Between LA and Las Vegas
On July 18 a wildfire spread over the I-15 freeway in California’s Cajon Pass torching some 20 vehicles. 60 to 70 cars were abandoned on the road. The fire quickly grew to 3,500 acres and shut down the freeway in both directions. The fire destroyed 44 vehicles and seven homes, and bore down on mountain communities. At least 50 homes were threatened, officials said.
Cars, trucks and even a boat went up in flames on the freeway. Heavy winds mixed with dry chaparral and grass created a dangerous combination. Shortly before the fast-moving blaze jumped the freeway and the cars caught fire, officials had to halt water drops because of a recreational drone flying nearby. There were 5 drones in all, and they delayed the firefighters for a crucial 26 minutes before the skies could be cleared.
A Northern California wildfire raced through more than six square miles of drought-stricken timber on July 25, threatening at least 150 rural homes in the Sierra Nevada, authorities said. The blaze erupted at around 2:30 p.m. and forced evacuations of some communities in and near Nevada County, about 45 miles northeast of Sacramento.
In Montana, a wildfire is still burning in Glacier National Park. The Reynolds Creek Fire is up to 3,166 acres and is 10 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said. In addition to heat waves, flash flooding, tornadoes and wildfires, this year has been the deadliest season in years for lightning strikes There were 732 strikes in 15 minutes in North Carolina around the beginning of July.
So far this year 5.6 million acres have burned in the US, an area bigger than the state of Massachusetts. Its the worst wildfire season in 25 years. Even in Alaska 4.7 million acres have been scorched. The sad part is that one in five fires are started by an arsonist.
Wait, There’s More – Torrential Rain and Flash Flooding in Ky
Around the middle of the month there was torrential rain and flash flooding in Kentucky. Four were dead and several others were missing. 60 homes were damaged or destroyed. There were 373 reports of wind damage, 37 reports of hail damage and 5 tornado reports. More than a dozen homes were destroyed in western Illinois. Thousands were left without power.