Environment & Science

SoCal gets reprieve from Santa Ana winds

A firefighter stands under windswept palm trees as he hoses down smoldering debris in Ventura, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Ferocious Santa Ana winds raking Southern California whipped explosive wildfires Tuesday, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of homes.
A firefighter stands under windswept palm trees as he hoses down smoldering debris in Ventura, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Ferocious Santa Ana winds raking Southern California whipped explosive wildfires Tuesday, prompting evacuation orders for thousands of homes.
Daniel Dreifuss/AP

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This morning, fire-weary Southern California got some good news. The National Weather Service cancelled the last in a multi-week series of red flag warnings for high winds. Those winds were responsible for fanning a number of firestorms, including the destructive Thomas Fire. 

The most recent Santa Ana wind event died down by Friday morning, giving firefighters an opportunity to tackle the Thomas fire which is currently at 65 percent containment.

Southern Californians have been hammered by strong Santa Ana winds over the past three weeks. A long lasting high pressure system sitting over the Great Basin, north east of SoCal was the blame. As cold air flowed from that area towards a trough of low pressure along the coast, it would heat up, increase in speed and dry out further, providing ideal conditions for fires.

There've been a few different Santa Ana events driving the fires since late November and early December.

While winds have died down, there'll be no relief from our warm and dry conditions in the coming weeks. A  high pressure ridge, similar to the one seen during California's recent drought, has set up in the Eastern Pacific, blocking storms from coming down from the arctic. That's a problem, given that the Los Angeles basin has only received 0.57 percent of the rain expected by this time of year.