This will likely be California’s worst fire season in history

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It was another tough week for California firefighters. Although it’s mid-November, wildfire season in the Far West continues to rage on. The blaze in Northern California has made international headlines and destroyed the town of Paradise. About 90 percent of the homes in this town are gone and as of early Sunday, 23 people have lost their lives to the ferocious blaze. Nearly 7,000 homes and buildings were destroyed from the inferno.

Known as the Camp Fire, which began last Thursday, the wildfire grew to burn over 100,000 acres very quickly as strong northerly winds fanned the flames. It has become the most destructive wildfire in the state’s modern history, during a year that the state has seen many major blazes. This year will likely be the worst fire season in California history.

Cliff lived in the Paradise area in the late 1980s where we first met. He told me on Saturday that his old home was burned to the ground. There are relatives of mine in the Sacramento area who know other people in the Paradise area who have lost their homes to the Camp Fire.

In addition to the wildfire in the northern portion of California, there are two major blazes in the southern part of the state. The Woolsey Fire exploded quickly to 8,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in just a few hours once it began. As of the weekend, the Woolsey Fire grew to over 80,000 acres. The blaze also resulted in a complete evacuation of Malibu last week.

The other wildfire in Southern California, the Hill Fire, has burned about 4,500 acres. As of the weekend, there have been a number of large homes owned by well-known celebrities that have burned to the ground. The Agoura Hills set that was used for “Westworld” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” at Paramount Ranch has been destroyed.

The California fires have forced more than 300,000 people from their homes throughout the state. The two fires in Southern California are expected to burn “all the way to the ocean.”

The 2018 California wildfires have been the most destructive in the state’s history. There has been a total of nearly 7,600 fires that have burned over 1.6 million acres. The cost from these blazes is around $3 billion prior to the recent outbreak, so the damage total will go much higher.

This season has been the worst for wildfires across the western U.S. Texas also experienced its worst fire season since 2011 as about 900 wildfires were reported.

Across the U.S., about 8.3 million acres have burned from Jan. 1 through Nov. 11, much of it in the western U.S. Last year, the figure was close to 8.9 million. Currently, there are 6 large fires in California, including the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire.

It was also another busy fire season in Canada as well. In British Columbia, there were nearly 2,000 wildfires that burned approximately 2.4 million acres. In Ontario, there were about 1,325 fires, compared to a normal of 750 fires.

The western U.S. has experienced one of the hottest and driest summer seasons on record, resulting in a second year in a row with bad wildfires. The long-range computer models are pointing to an increasing chance of rain across much of California in about 10 days. Although the moisture is greatly needed, if the rainfall is moderate to heavy as some forecast models are predicting, then we may be hearing about mudslides in the fire-damaged areas.

In terms of our weather, we received our first snow of the season in Coeur d’Alene last Friday. Cliff measured 1.4 inches, while most other areas reported about an inch to an inch and a half. The next storm system is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, with a good chance of rain and snow across North Idaho. The next chance for snow, after the mid-week storm, should occur toward the end of this weekend.

Cliff and I still believe that the rest of November and December will have above-normal moisture, which may also include snowfall. There’s still a good chance that we’ll have a fourth year in a row with a white Christmas in North Idaho. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Cliff has discovered that when there were three years back-to-back-to-back with a white Christmas, there has always been a fourth year. As usual, time will tell.

Despite the good chances for snow during the first half of the winter season, the second half does look drier with much less snow thanks to the expected development of a new El Nino in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean. As of now, we are predicting about 50 inches of snow in Coeur d’Alene for the 2018-19 season, compared to a normal of 69.8 inches.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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