Southern California's such an exciting and wonderful place to live right now, isn't it? Too bad it's all going to be charred to a crisp by November. There are now two major wildfires raging--in Banning and Camarillo--signaling the beginning of a particularly terrible fire season. Officials are saying the conditions right now are more "typical of late summer," according to the LA Daily News, with temps high, winds strong, and rainfall superlow. All the elements are in place: -- "Downtown Los Angeles ... has seen only 35 percent of its average rainfall of 14.93 inches. The coast has seen 50 percent of its average, but most inland areas have experienced 25 percent of their total rainfall so far this year," according to the LADN. The area is headed for the fourth-driest year since 1877.
-- "[T]he dry winter and spring left the brush much more combustible than they've ever seen it at this time of year," according to the LA Times.
-- And it's unlikely SoCal will get any big rainfall until much later in the year; firefighters are at least hoping for a healthy (and moist) marine layer in May and June.
-- Add that to winds currently gusting over 60 miles per hour, "significantly above normal for May and more common for the fall, when the Santa Anas are at their strongest." One forecaster tells the Daily News "I can't remember seeing this magnitude of Santa Ana winds this late in the year." They're also totally unpredictable, a Ventura County Fire Department rep tells the LAT: "Winds are swirling and twisting, and we don't know what way it's going to turn."
-- Besides helping spread fire, the winds "forced officials to ground air tankers battling the so-called Springs fire" in Camarillo.
-- Plus "there's a 40 percent chance that summer temperatures in Southern California will be higher than normal."
-- According to the LAT, "The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which protects about a third of the state, said that it had dealt with 150 more blazes this year than during the same period in 2012." The LADN adds that the total is now at 850, "or 60 percent more than the average for this time of year."
-- The Camarillo fire is especially weird, since it's so close to the ocean: "We don't often see fires at this time of year, and definitely not here," says a sheriff's rep.
-- "Conditions in Ventura County were ripe for fire, with temperatures reaching 98, a record for May 2 in Camarillo, in addition to 2 percent relative humidity, winds of up to 59 mph on the hillsides, and brush moisture at 77 percent when it should be at least 115 percent for this time of year," says the DN
-- And if that's all not doomy enough, there's an energy problem too: the San Onofre nuclear plant has been offline for more than a year and fires could knock out transmission lines that bring in outside power.
Clear your shrubs, have an evacuation plan, and hope for El Niño, everyone.
· Windy, dry conditions right for brutal fire season ahead [LADN]
· Southern California fire season off to a sinister start [LAT]