Residents of California are advised to make sure their hazard (homeowners) insurance is up to date, and that an emergency preparedness kit is within reach this summer. Why? Because after a lightning storm that included almost 8,000 lightning strikes and caused more than 800 wildfires in Northern California, meteorologists are predicting that this year’s fire season will get progressively worse.
Ken Clark, one of AccuWeather.com’s meteorologists in Southern California said, “We’re not even into the meat of the fire season at this point, and the brush is extremely dry. It’s not going to get any better, it’s going to get worse.
The recent lightning storm in the Golden State was unusual, not only because of the number of strikes that were generated, but because it hit so early in the season, and came inland from the Pacific. Most similar storms don’t come until much later in summer, and then they are usually coming from the southeast.
John Juskie, National Weather Service science officer based in Sacramento, explains, “You’re looking at a pattern that’s climatologically rare. We typically don’t see this happen at this time of summer. To see 8,000 [lighting strikes], that’s way up there on the scale.”
The fires, which have already forced hundreds of Californians to flee their homes, are being attacked from both air and ground by thousands of firefighters, but though many thousands of acres of land have been scorched, not that many buildings have been destroyed. Daniel Berlant, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection pointed out, adding, “It’s just extremely, extremely dry. That means any little spark has the potential to cause a large fire. The public needs to be extra cautious because we don’t need any additional wildfires.”
Despite the presence of thousands of lightning strikes last weekend, the accompanying thunderstorms brought little rain, and what precipitation there was evaporated before hitting the ground. California was already experiencing one of its driest years on record, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declaring a statewide drought earlier this month. Typically, California’s fire season does not peak until late summer or early fall.