Spot Fires Are Started by “Widespread Lightning” in Northwest California

The National Weather Service reported that a band of thunderstorms moved across the northwest portion of California on Monday, bringing with it a mixture of scattered showers and lightning strikes throughout the night and into the morning. There were many fires on Tuesday morning.

At 6 p.m. on Monday, UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted, “Widespread lightning now occurring near intersection of Mendocino, Tehama, & Trinity counties.” Although these storms produce localized downpours, several strikes are happening outside of rain cores, which could lead to fires being ignited.

On Tuesday morning, Cal Fire was called to six separate wildfires in the Humboldt-Del Norte region, where over 100 lightning strikes were reported. Bill Stirton, a spokesman with Cal Fire, stated, “I don’t know the specifics on these fires yet.” The Mendocino station of Cal Fire could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning fire activity in its area.

Th tweet below verifies the news:

According California meteorologist Matthew Kidwell, the storms began in Mendocino County before spreading to Trinity and Humboldt counties. At 7:15 a.m. on Tuesday, the band was above Del Norte County, California, near the Oregon border. According to Kidwell, the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada Range both experienced lightning strikes.

Kidwell noted that while afternoon thunderstorms in the summer are common in this part of California, it is less common for storms to persist through the night. This happens once or twice a year, at most, he said. There was a significant risk of wildfire due to the lightning, therefore the weather service issued a red flag warning from 7 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday.

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There will certainly be more thunderstorms this afternoon, but they should die down as night sets, following a more typical pattern. “There are thunderstorms just moving out of the area,” Kidwell said.

They’re in Del Norte County still and will be moving out this morning, It’s going to come back this afternoon over the interior areas of Trinity County and eastern Mendocino county and possibly Lake County.”

Moisture left over from Tropical Storm Eugene mixed with monsoonal moisture and then became whirled around a low-pressure system off the coast of California, where it eventually condensed into thunderstorms on Monday and Tuesday.

The weather service predicted that interior mountain thunderstorms would form yesterday afternoon due to the “destabilization” brought about by the surge of rain and the rising surface temperatures.

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