Exceptionally Bad

Yesterday we got the news that the U.S. Drought Monitor has classified Sonoma County as exceptional--the worst of its five categories of drought conditions. This news comes on top of a couple of weeks of other very bad news as we head into the 2021 fire season.

On May 7 the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the North Bay hills because of hotter than normal temperatures, very dry vegetation, and gusty winds. The warning, meant to run from Friday at 11 p.m. through Monday at 6 a.m., was extended into Tuesday. The last time a red flag warning was issued this early in the year was 2013

The Press Democrat delivered a punch to the gut with its piece on May 16, stating that places that had burned in the fires of the last few years could burn again: Much of that landscape could burn again this year, say fire ecologists and firefighters. That includes areas scorched by Sonoma County’s five worst wildfires — the Tubbs and Nuns in 2017, Kincade in 2019 and last year’s Walbridge and Glass fires.

Santa Rosa declared a "significantly" early start to its official fire season, May 17, because of hot, dry conditions and the severe drought.

Rounding out this fortnight of bad news was, of course, the exceptional drought classification from Drought Monitor team, which is made up of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Press Democrat article includes this quote: “It’s just entering the dry season out there,” said Adam Hartman, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in Washington, D.C., who authored Thursday’s map, “and given the antecedent conditions, it’s not looking promising. We really feel for you all out there.”

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