Strong dry winds carry fire risk back to Central Coast

Peninsula Premier Admin

MONTEREY — If this weekend’s warm weather has you checking the calendar to see what month it is, you’re not alone.

In fact, Sunday’s temperatures were so warm they broke or tied heat records across the region said Gerry Díaz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Monterey’s high of 79 degrees Sunday was 20 degrees hotter than average. San Jose hit a toasty 78 degrees, which was the hottest recorded temperature on that date in over a century.

Strong offshore winds from the northeast have been sweeping down the Central Coast, creating unusually dry and warm conditions, said Díaz. And while the warm temperatures may be a nice respite from normal winter weather, they bring an all-too-familiar risk: wildfires.

“When we have that kind of combination of strong winds and very dry conditions,” said Díaz, “that’s when we have this elevated fire concern, particularly for the Central Coast.”

Accordingly, several areas of Monterey and San Benito counties are under a Red Flag Warning until 3 p.m. Tuesday. Red Flag Warnings indicate weather conditions that could result in extreme fire behavior within a 24-hour period.

Officials are particularly worried about the risk of fire in Monterey County because of the unusually dry winter we’ve had so far. According to Díaz, although the Bay Area has received some rain recently, most of it has been in the North Bay, and the whole area is “below average all across the board.”

As of Jan. 15, Monterey received 1.70 inches of rain, far below the average year-to-date for the area of 6.93 inches, said Díaz.

Although weather conditions are always changing, Díaz anticipates a shift back to cooler temperatures later in the week and maybe even a slight chance of showers.

“There’s a bit of a silver lining there,” Díaz said.

The high winds forecast through Tuesday evening are also a concern to officials. Monterey and San Benito counties (excluding Salinas Valley) are under wind advisory warnings until 6 p.m. Tuesday, with 15-25 mph winds forecasted, as well as gusts up to 50 mph.

Although the high winds are forecasted to be the most severe at higher elevations (greater than 1,000 feet), beachgoers should also be cautious. The National Weather Service has issued a high surf advisory through Monday evening, predicting breaking waves of 18 to 22 feet and increased risks of sneaker waves and rip currents.

To stay safe during the windy conditions, Díaz recommends planning — including preparing for scattered power outages, securing any temporary outdoor structures that could blow away in the wind and being cautious while driving. Díaz said to be sure to report any downed tree limbs or powerlines to local authorities.

Residents can get the most up-to-date weather information at and can also find updates by following @NWSBayArea on Twitter and Facebook.

Contributed by local news sources

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