DISCUSSION: A large fire is currently burning in Ventura County in California. The Thomas Fire as it is named has currently burnt over 65,000 acres with no containment so far. The spread of the fire has even crossed U.S. Highway 101. The fire is currently burning at a rapid pace because of high winds with gusts around 40 to 50 mph (35 to 43 knots) as well as dew point temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit at nearby locations such as Sandberg and Camarillo. These conditions are prevalent as a direct result of the Santa Ana wind phenomena which is occurring with a very strong ridge over the Pacific Coast, consequently bringing high winds even to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The fire is currently threatening to reach the populated portions of Ventura County including the City of Ventura. Evacuations have been ordered for several cities near the fire such as Santa Paula. In addition, the radar for the National Weather Service Los Angeles office was put into standby mode due to the fire being within a few miles of the radar. Furthermore, the radar site at Vandenburg Air Force has registered the smoke on the radar at about 30 dBZ (decibels with respect to height) which is about the same reflectivity as a rain shower.
The fire is likely to continue spreading at an alarming rate over the next few days due to a continuation of the high winds which is driving dry air to flow over the area. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the entire Los Angeles and Ventura County areas due to the high winds and low humidity until Friday at the earliest. Evacuation orders have been issued for over 40,000 residents and more orders are expected within the coming days due to the spread of the fire. Southern California Edison reports blackouts affecting over 250,000 customers in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties due to power lines going down because of the fire. Many schools in Ventura County have been and will remain closed due to the fires.
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© 2017 Meteorologist JP Kalb