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Relief may arrive in wildfire-ravaged areas in California later next week with rain chance

By Kyle Elliott, AccuWeather meteorologist
November 17, 2018, 1:23:28 AM EST

Firefighters battling several deadly and destructive blazes across California may finally receive some relief from Mother Nature next week in what may become one of the most costly weather and climate disasters in United States history.

Said Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, “This is a serious humanitarian as well as economic disaster for the state of California, possibly rivaling the negative impacts of the great earthquakes there. At this point, AccuWeather estimates that the total damage and economic impact of the California wildfires has already exceeded $80 billion and will likely exceed $150 billion and possibly reach $200 billion by next week based on AccuWeather forecast conditions of strong winds and very little rain combined with very dry grounds and vegetation aggravated by lack of rain and strong parched winds. If these conditions and the resulting damage persist at least partially into December, this could well turn out to be one of the U.S.’ costliest weather and climate disasters, exceeding the damage caused by recent major hurricanes such as Katrina, Sandy and Harvey."

“This dramatic economic loss will cause substantial damage to California’s economy with repercussions to its annual budget potentially resulting ultimately in increased taxes. Deteriorating economic conditions brought on by the negative economic impact of the fires coming on the heels of last year's losses will stress the state’s budget possibly causing the state’s credit to deteriorate which, if it occurs, will result in lower bond ratings and higher interest rates with the snowball effect to greater deficits and more expenses," Myers said.

The Camp Fire, which ignited around 6:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, Nov. 8, is the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. The death toll has since risen to 71 with more than 1,000 still missing.

Static Fires

Farther south, the Woolsey Fire continues to be the biggest threat to communities as it burns in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Three people have been killed and three others injured by the blaze, which has also destroyed hundreds of structures and is threatening tens of thousands of others.

A major change in the weather pattern is forecast to bring much-needed moisture and the potential for rainfall to the state next week.

The flow of air will reverse from offshore, which has been the case the past week or more, to onshore this weekend and into much of next week.

Early week outlook 11.17 AM

This light flow from the Pacific Ocean will bring in some moisture and cause humidity levels to rise from their desertlike levels.

The combination of very dry air, gusty winds and warmth were the perfect ingredients for fires to erupt rapidly and spread in the past few weeks.

Upcoming higher humidity levels and light winds may not deter existing fires or prevent new ones from igniting, but these forecast conditions will slow down the ignition and spread of the fires, which may allow crews more time to gain control.

“While there is a chance for some meaningful rainfall next week, it is unlikely that we will see enough precipitation to end the fires across Southern California. There is a somewhat better chance for enough rainfall to diminish the fires in Northern California," Myers said.

Two storms may approach the Pacific coast next week. The exact track and strength of these storms will determine which areas may benefit the most from rainfall.

One storm is forecast to arrive in Northern California on Wednesday.

Static Cali Rain Next Week

A second, stronger storm may arrive and dip farther south late in the week.

"That second storm has a better chance of spreading some rain to much of California either Thursday or Friday," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

"Everything is on fire around me!" woman exclaims as she flees for her life
Hundreds of homes destroyed by Woolsey Fire in California
Aerial footage shows burnt houses, blackened hills from Woolsey Fire
Woolsey Fire: Tens of thousands remain evacuated in Southern California as firefighters continue to face challenging conditions

Should the second storm next week end up being potent, gusty winds kicked up in its vicinity may cause erratic fire behavior prior to any dousing rainfall. If heavy rain falls on a recent burn scar location, flash flooding and mudslides can be expected.

Download the free AccuWeather app to find out when and where rain may bring relief to firefighting efforts next week.

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