Why does this keep happening to California year after year? As you read this article, enormous wildfires are ravaging large portions of northern California, and Governor Gavin Newsom has already declared a statewide emergency. An extreme wind event that began on Saturday evening is pushing the fires along at a staggering rate, and when the winds are howling this ferociously it is exceedingly difficult for firefighters to keep the fires from spreading. It was being reported that on Sunday morning there were sustained winds exceeding 90 mph in northern California with “gusts that topped 100 mph”. It was the strongest wind event in several years, and it came at an extremely unfortunate time.
These “hurricane-force Diablo winds” will continue into Monday morning, but that doesn’t mean that things will start to get better. As you will see below, another extreme wind event is in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Kincade Fire is the largest of the wildfires, and according to ABC News it has now “grown to 85 square miles”…
California Fire officials say a rapidly moving fire in Northern California wine country has grown to 85 square miles (220 square kilometers) and destroyed 94 buildings.
Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox called the conditions throughout California “a tinderbox” Sunday and asked people to continue being vigilant in helping to prevent fires from breaking out.
That is an absolutely massive wildfire, and the extremely strong winds are picking up embers from the Kincade Fire and starting blazes in new areas.
The following is what Cal Fire Captain Robert Foxworthy told reporters on Sunday morning…
“The wind speeds are extreme…The strongest winds I have felt in my career,” Cal Fire Capt. Robert Foxworthy told KPIX 5 Sunday morning. “They (the winds) are throwing embers a considerable distance in front of the main fire, causing spot fires, creating a real challenge for the crews fighting the fire.”
The Kincade Fire was only about 10 percent contained early on Sunday, but thanks to this extreme wind event the level of containment has now fallen to 5 percent.
In other words, this fire is completely and utterly out of control.
Pacific Gas & Electric is telling us that “nearly 2.7 million people lost electricity” on Sunday, and they are expecting more blackouts in northern California during the week.
Could you imagine being in the dark with no electricity and massive wildfires are raging all around you?
This is a terrifying time for those living in northern California, and approximately 200,000 are currently under mandatory evacuation orders.
According to the Sonoma County Sheriff, nobody can remember another time when there was an evacuation order this large…
Approx 180,000 people under evacuation order due to #KincadeFire. This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember. Take care of each other.
“I’ve heard some people express concerns that we’re evacuating too many people,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said Sunday.
“I think those concerns are not valid at this point.”
As Bloomberg reports, power was knocked out in heavily populated areas including Oakland and Berkeley, and almost all of the affluent Marin County north of San Francisco. While the city of San Francisco itself was spared, many of the workers in commuter towns were hit.
In the suburbs of Marin County, street lights were out, gas stations were closed and stores were shuttered. People who charged their phones and computers before the outage hit awoke to slow internet connections as they searched for updates.
In Oakland, long stretches of banks, pharmacies, restaurants, shops and markets were dark. Police patrol cars parked at intersections to help navigate vehicles through darkened traffic lights.
PG&E said it would begin inspections in the rest of its blacked-out territory early Monday morning, returning electricity as quickly as possible.
But while executives said they would try to restore power to everyone who lost it before the next blackout began, they warned that they might not have time. Some customers, they said, might stay in the dark for days.
And it's not just NorCal, Southern California is suffering also with mass evacuations across some of the wealthiest regions in LA...
Sadly, most homeowners in California do not have fire insurance, and so when they lose their homes they may find it exceedingly difficult to rebuild.
And after last year’s horrific fires, some insurance companies decided not to renew coverage for many of those that did actually have fire insurance…
After last year’s devastating wildfires, insurance companies are balking at fire coverage policy renewals for more than 350,000 residents in high-risk areas.
“We are seeing an increasing trend across California where people at risk of wildfires are being non-renewed by their insurer,” state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement.
The California Department of Insurance “has seen cases where homeowners were paying an annual premium of $800-$1,000 but, upon renewal, saw increases to as high as $2,500-$5,000,” a staggering rise of more than 300 percent in most cases.
Insurance companies keep making it really hard for us to have a positive view of them. The entire purpose for insuring our homes is so that if disaster strikes we will be able to rebuild.
Of course it probably doesn’t make much business sense to keep insuring multi-million dollar homes that are built in the middle of a tinderbox if these sorts of wildfires are just going to keep happening year after year after year.
But the truth is that we never used to see fires of such ferocity and intensity year after year. Yes, there have always been wildfires in California, but something has changed.
So why is this happening?
Why is California being absolutely pummeled by unprecedented fires in recent years?
Ultimately, I think that these latest fires will encourage even more people to leave the state, and you certainly can’t blame anyone that wants to leave.
The winds that are fueling the rapid growth of these wildfires are expected to die down late on Monday, but then another extreme wind event is coming on Tuesday…
On Sunday afternoon, PG&E announced it’s monitoring another extreme-wind event that could trigger yet another power outage Tuesday and Wednesday, the third such blackout in a week and fourth in October. Up to 32 counties in Northern and Central California could be affected.
Any way that you want to look at it, this is going to be a very tough week for northern California. This is what Governor Gavin Newsom said about “the next 72 hours” on Saturday…
“The next 72 hours will be challenging,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday. “I could sugarcoat it, but I will not.”
At this moment, there are some portions of northern California that literally look like “hell on Earth”.
The devastation caused by these fires is going to be immense, but so far there haven’t been any reported deaths.
So that is the good news.
But the bad news is that these fires are going to keep happening, and the extreme social decay that is pushing so many people to leave the state is only going to intensify.
Yes, the weather is very nice in California in the winter and there are still lots of good jobs, but if I was living in California right now I would be looking to leave as soon as possible.