[Oct 16, PD]
The National Weather Service has extended a red flag warning signaling increased wildfire risk for the North Bay mountains through 8 a.m. Saturday, due to expected scorching temperatures and critically low humidity.
The agency also forecasts northeast winds of 15 mph to 30 mph in at higher elevations with gusts of up to 55 mph at the tallest North Bay peaks on Friday.
On Saturday, wind speeds will subside but continue contributing to the extremely arid conditions, said weather service meteorologist Brayden Murdock.
“Winds are set to taper off for a good portion of the region, but as we continue into tonight, we’re still seeing very dry conditions, so (the red flag warning) is in an abundance of caution,” Murdock said.
On Friday morning, the weather service initially extended the red flag warning through 6 p.m. Friday for most of the North Bay, before again extending it for higher elevations into Saturday morning.
Temperatures are expected to reach the upper 90s and could set local records in some parts of Sonoma County on Friday. Humidity levels are predicted to drop as low as 8%, and stay there into Friday night.
In addition to the red flag warning, a heat advisory is in effect through 9 p.m. Friday. That means there’s a greater chance of heat-related illnesses and officials recommend limiting outdoor activities during the sweltering afternoon.
Also on Friday morning, PG&E began the process of restoring electricity to the 1,700 Sonoma County customers affected by a planned power shut-off to prevent the utility’s equipment from sparking wildfires due to the fire weather conditions.
Crews received the all-clear before to start inspecting power lines before 10 a.m., a utility spokeperson said. PG&E aims restore power within 12 daylight hours after inspections begin.
The utility cut electricity to 53,000 customers throughout Northern California, including a total of 6,700 customers in Napa and Sonoma counties.
Sonoma County’s unincorporated areas bore the brunt of the local outages, including sections east of Cloverdale and parts of Asti, Geyserville and the Porter Creek area near Calistoga Road, as well around Kenwood and Glen Ellen.
About 100 customers in the city of Sonoma also were unplugged. View a map of outage areas here.
On Thursday night, strong winds again hit the hills in Sonoma and Napa counties, though with less intensity than on Wednesday night, Murdock said. Still, some of the highest peaks, including in the Healdsburg hills, saw powerful gusts of up to 72 mph.
Despite the winds, Cal Fire reported no significant wildfire activity overnight, according to agency spokesperson Will Powers.
Heading into the weekend, shifting winds blowing in from the ocean could bring cooler temperatures in the 80s and more humid conditions, according to the weather service.
(by Ethan Varian, The Press Democrat)