More lightning could hit Northern California fire zone


Meteorologists expressed worry about the possibility of the return of dry lightning Sunday to parts of Northern and Central California, regions already hit hard by lightning-sparked fires.

As a result, the National Weather Service has issued a wide-ranging fire weather watch for large swaths of Northern and Central California beginning Sunday morning through Tuesday, saying “fast moving … thunderstorms may lead to a risk of dry lightning and new fire starts.”

The dome of heat that crawled up from Arizona last week and baked Northern California is going to reestablish itself, although temperatures won’t reach the same extremes, said San Jose State atmospheric scientist Alison Bridger.


At the same time, another storm off the Mexican coast is poised to feed that heat dome moisture, which would destabilize it, laying the groundwork for thunderstorms.

“And then all you need is a little energy to spark it and you’ll get more lightning and thunder,” Bridger said.

The storms would develop fairly rapidly, so it won’t be clear whether there will be lightning and where it would strike until possibly Sunday morning, she added.

Since Saturday, more than 931,000 acres of California’s forests and shrub lands have burned, many of them sparked by a weekend lightning storm stretching hundreds of miles and stoked by one of the worst heat waves in recent memory.

The blazes include the LNU Lightning Complex fire, which at more than 302,000 acres is the second-largest fire in California history. The SCU Lightning Complex fire, currently covering more than 274,000 acres, is fourth largest.