4:15pm: Aye aye, captain.
#SJFD Captain Cloutier is deployed to the @calfireSCU information unit on the #SCULightningComplex fire. He’s currently stationed in the Evergreen area of #SanJose. Learn what the current conditions are as of August 21, 2020 and what residents should be aware of in this area. pic.twitter.com/ycoJZz26kh
— San Jose Fire Dept. (@SJFD) August 21, 2020
San Jose fire Capt. Brad Cloutier broadcast an update on the SCU Complex, which he says westerly winds have been coaxing south and east away from Silicon Valley.
Evacuations orders for the fire start in the east foothills beyond San Jose proper.
Though the mandatory evac zone doesn’t extend to the Evergreen area, Cloutier urged residents there to pack some essentials, drum up a plan and be ready to go just in case.
4:10pm: Shock and awe.
NEW: As numerous #wildfires rage across California, @NOAA's #GOES17🛰️ caught this time-lapse of the #lightning between Aug 16-18 that ignited many new #fires. The satellite's #GLM sensor detected several thousand strikes across the state during 72 hrs. #CAwx #CaliforniaWildfires pic.twitter.com/pMJ1mwGdTd
— NOAA Satellites - Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) August 20, 2020
One Cal Fire official called it an unprecedented lightning siege.
Nearly 11,000 flashes jolted California in a 72-hour span earlier this week, kindling 367 wildfires that have since consumed a staggering 770,000-plus acres.
Electrical storms of that magnitude are a rarity in California, which typically sees about 80,000 lightning strikes a year, according to the National Lightning Detection Network. Compare that to Florida—the most lightning-prone state in the union—which records an annual average of about 1.2 million.
It takes storms with powerful updrafts and clashing particles of ice, rain or snow to conjure lightning. In a strong enough electrical field, the jolts can arc to the earth and ignite parched vegetation. That’s what sparks about 15 percent of the nation’s wildfires, according to the National Weather Service.
But some studies estimate an increase in lightning-caused fires as we alter the planet’s climate. Warmer air carrying more moisture vapor fuels the updrafts that generate lightning. A 2014 report published in Science Magazine predicted a 12 percent increase in strikes for every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit of warming.
Lightning that hammered the Golden State this week came in the thick of a record heatwave, punishing drought and consecutive years of increasingly intense fire seasons.
All those factors, to some degree, trace back to a changing climate. And none bode well for the next spate of dry lightning forecast for this coming weekend.
2:25pm: Smoky skies.
Two pics from similar spots. One yesterday. One today. From Silver Creek facing Mt Hamilton. First pic, smoke behind foothills obscures Mt Ham. Second pic, smoke obscures the foothills. Smells like camp fire. #SCULightningComplex pic.twitter.com/V5uW7DaAq8
— Steve Wilson (@virtualsteve) August 21, 2020
A San Jose local shared a side-by-side shot of Mt. Ham on Thursday compared to today. It’s not as smoky as Wednesday—when ash literally, visibly fell from the sky—but the air is obviously still too choked with particulates to safely breathe. Mask up, folks!
2:20pm: Room and board.
Airbnb has offered shelter to wildfire evacuees. Click here for more info.
1:45pm: Sound the alarm.
Firefighters are responding to a 2 alarm vegetation fire near the 8400 block of Monterey Road. Estimated at 3-4 acres currently. @CHPSanJose has been requested to close Monterey Rd in both directions between approximately Bailey Ave and Metcalf Rd. Please avoid the area.
— San Jose Fire Dept. (@SJFD) August 21, 2020
Just what we need. Another fire.
1:15pm: 771,000 acres and counting.
Governor Gavin Newsom joins a local briefing with the state’s top fire and emergency management officials and emergency responders battling wildfires across Northern California.
Posted by California Governor on Friday, August 21, 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom says California’s firefighting crews are now trying to suppress 560 fires, most of them stemming from dry lightning strikes that first began last Sunday.
Statewide, 771,000 acres—a Rhode Island-sized expanse—have burned in the time since.
“These fires are stressing our resources, stressing our personnel,” Newsom said during a press conference today on the LNU Lightning Complex fires burning their way through Sonoma, Napa, Solano and Lake counties.
On Thursday, Newsom journeyed to Watsonville, where he used his address at the Democratic National Convention to call attention to the role of climate change in hastening the extraordinarily destructive wildfire season now underway.
Fire conditions may improve slightly as the weather cools, Newsom added, but the state could also see more dry lightning emerge from an approaching monsoon pattern.
As fire containment in SoCal improves, state officials have begun shifting crews to northward to the Bay Area and Central Coast, where two of the fires—the SCU and LNU—have morphed into the largest in California.
Newsom thanked states for sending firefighters and equipment, including Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Montana and Texas.
The governor mentioned how, on a Thursday trip through Santa Clara County, he ran into San Jose firefighters pausing to rest, looking completely wiped out. Newsom said they pleaded for more help. “We need more support,” they reportedly told him.
“They were simply overwhelmed by what they saw,” Newsom recounted today. “They were on a quick stop. They were getting some gas and getting some drinks. And they said, ‘We’re just going to the hotel down the block. We’re taking a shower, and we’re told we have to get right back on the line.’”
1:10pm: A word from the mayor.
LIVE NOW: Cal Fire has not issued a warning or evacuation order within City of San José limits. In this Q&A, I’ll answer fire safety questions from the comments to connect families with resources, including a Wildfire Resource Center available at Evergreen Community Center until 9:00 p.m. Stay informed (map: bit.ly/SCU_FireEvacMap) and prepared (readyforwildfire.org) for rapidly changing conditions. Follow San José Fire Department and CAL FIRE for more updates. Sign up for alerts here: bit.ly/AlertSCC_Signup.
Posted by Sam Liccardo on Friday, August 21, 2020
San Jose residents can rest assured that the evacuation line remains a fair distance east of the city proper as the SCU Complex spread inland and southbound.
Mayor Sam Liccardo said residents should still remain vigilant, however, and anyone living close to the eastern edge of the city should pack bags with water and other essential items in case they’re forced to leave for a few days.
“Although we have a stable situation now ... it’s going to take a couple days to get a handle on this,” the mayor said, adding that he does not expect new evacuation orders today in San Jose. “So let’s stay vigilant throughout the weekend.”
“This is a marathon and not a sprint.”
1pm: More wild weather ahead.
With 600,000 acres still burning from fires caused by last weekend’s storms, the Bay Area may see another spate of dry lightning strikes this Sunday.
That's according to the National Weather Service (NWS), which is poised to issue a red flag warning that extends from the Bay Area to the Central Coast.
NWS forecasters say Sunday may bring light onshore winds that build up to 65 mph gusts accompanying stronger storms through early next week.
If those predictions come to pass, per NWS, “lightning will likely spark new fires across the region, including remote areas. Wildfires in remote regions may not become apparent until warmer and drier conditions allow them to grow.”
Ryan Walbrun, an NWS incident meteorologist assigned to monitor the SCU Complex—a group of fires spanning five counties from the South Bay to Central Valley—said his team will work on fine-tuning the weather forecast in the coming days.
For now, at least, the SCU Complex is steering clear of San Jose, advancing toward the east and southbound along the far side of Mt. Hamilton.
#SCULightningComplex | Fire Weather Forecast |
— CAL FIRE SCU (@calfireSCU) August 21, 2020