Strong winds whip through southern California; there is a high risk of flooding

(CNN) — Fierce winds, some gusting up to 100 mph (160 km/h), have begun to pummel Southern California, raising already sweltering temperatures Friday as a tropical storm that could drop a year’s worth of of rain is approaching and threatens dangerous flash flooding in a drought-stricken state.

The extreme weather comes as Tropical Storm Kay moves north after making landfall in Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday. Although Kay has weakened to a tropical storm, it still has sustained winds of 65 km/h. (40mph). And it is increasing winds across mountainous terrain, similar to a Santa Ana wind event, to much stronger gusts, including a 109-mph (175-km/h) gust this Friday at Cuyamaca Peak in the Cuyamaca Mountains. San Diego, reported the National Weather Service.

storm in california

A worker walks through a dry sunflower field in August near Sacramento, California.

As Kay’s winds push warm, dry air in from the east, much of southern and central California, already baking through a heat wave fueled by the climate crisis, will remain under heat advisories. excessive until 8:00 pm on Friday. And concern is growing that erratic and strong winds will fuel the spread of wildfires, including the Fairview Fire, which has killed two people and exploded in size this week, burning more than 11,000 acres.

“With really strong winds, we could still record how fires that are already burning continue to spread before the rain actually gets here,” said the National Weather Service in San Diego a CNN.

Rain from Kay has begun to fall this Friday in far southern California, including San Diego, and far southwestern Arizona, including Yuma, as the risk of flash flooding increases.

The weather service said in a 1:40 p.m. PT update that heavy rain continued in the deserts of San Diego and rain bands were pushing into Orange and Riverside counties.

While the rain is expected to arrive on Saturday to quell the sweltering heat, bringing relief to weary residents and power grid operators who had braced for power outages, it could also trigger debris flows, especially in places ravaged by fire.

A flash flood warning is in effect for southwestern Imperial County. And the weather service office in Flagstaff, Arizona, warned of flash floods life-threatening in Cococino County at “low-water crossings, streams, normally dry washes, and highways.” Grand Canyon National Park is included in the warning, the weather service said.

Flood watches cover more than 6 million people in Southern California, including Palm Springs, Riverside and Barstow; southern Nevada, including Las Vegas; and western Arizona, including Yuma, Lake Havasu City, and Kingman.

And while the western US has been in drought for months, receiving up to 100mm of rain in just two days will not bring the kind of recovery that is needed. In fact, the Imperial Valley region, home to one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country and suffering from a severe drought since early spring, is bracing for severe damage.

“Farmers in the Imperial Valley are preparing their land for planting season, so a 1/2 to 1 inch rainfall will cause damage and delay their schedule,” said Robert Schettler, spokesman for the Imperial Irrigation District.

Although Kay’s damage is still uncertain, the storm is expected to leave more moderate temperatures in its wake as it moves away from the US West Coast and into the Pacific on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, wildfires continue to rage across Northern California, and Oregon faces increased fire danger due to the arrival of strong easterly winds from another weather system.

Temperature and rainfall records could fall

Temperatures above 100°F (37.7°C) are likely to continue this Friday across much of California, so temperature records are expected to be set before Kay cools temperatures.

Los Angeles weather authorities reported a temperature of 97 °F (36 °C) Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport, surpassing its previous record for the date of September 8, set in 1984.

The city of Paso Robles, California, also broke its record for that date, with 42.2 °C (108 °F); its previous record of 41.1 °C (106 °F) was set last year.

Behind the heat, fast and heavy deluges could also rewrite the record books. 50 to 100mm is expected over 36 hours this Friday and Saturday at the Imperial County Airport, which receives an average of 60mm of rain each year. If Imperial receives more than 76mm of rain, it will make this the wettest month on record; the previous wettest September was in 1976.

In Palm Springs, which normally receives 116mm of rain a year, 50 to 100mm is forecast. If 76mm falls in Palm Springs, it would put this month among the three rainiest Septembers in the city, where the average rainfall in September is 6mm.

Yuma could receive 38mm, making 2022 the wettest September since 2009. The city’s average September rainfall is 17mm.

Fires affect California and Oregon

While the rain would certainly help firefighters fighting wildfires, much damage has already been done: California Governor Gavin Newsom declared on Thursday the state of emergency in three counties due to two fires.

In addition to the Fairview Fire, the Mosquito Fire, in Northern California’s El Dorado and Placer counties, has burned 11,900 acres and is 0% contained, according to InciWeb, a national fire information clearinghouse. forestry. The fire threatens more than 3,600 structures, according to a friday update on the website.

Evacuation orders have been issued for parts of Placer County, and ordered the evacuation of some El Dorado County residents, according to authorities.

“Both fires are threatening multiple communities and critical infrastructure, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents,” the governor’s office said it’s a statement.

Oregon, meanwhile, is facing strong easterly winds that will increase fire danger across the state due to a separate weather system from Kay.

“A Red Flag Warning … will be in effect this FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, due to expected strong easterly winds and low humidity. These conditions may cause rapid fire spread,” tweeted the National Weather Service in Portland.

Wind gusts in the region are expected to be between 40 and 80 km/h (25 to 50 mph), according to a tweet from the weather service in Portland.

Utilities Pacific Power and Portland General Electric announced that they may proactively shut off power in some high-risk areas to reduce the risk of fire.

The outages will take place “in a limited high-risk area to help reduce the risk of wildfires and to help protect people, property and the environment,” Portland General Electric said in a statement. The measure could affect about 30,000 meters in the Portland and Salem, Oregon, area, according to the company.

About 12,000 Pacific Power customers in Linn, Douglas, Lincoln, Tillamook, Marion and Polk counties have been notified of the potential outages, the supplier said. it’s a statement.

— Taylor Ward, Allison Chinchar, Christina Maxouris, Steve Almasy, Stephanie Elam, Ella Nilsen, Paradise Afshar and Chris Boyette contributed reporting.

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