Pacific Storm Brings Beneficial Rain to Fire-Ravaged Areas

By By Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist
September 27, 2014, 12:48:37 AM EDT

A storm from the Pacific Ocean brought some rain to fire-ravaged areas across northern California after battering the area with gusty winds.

Winds picked up ahead of the storm on Wednesday, aggravating fires across the region and hindering efforts to fight them. Winds will continue over California through into the weekend but they will be accompanied by spotty rain.

As the storm progresses inland, winds will shift around to more of a north and northwest direction in northern areas. While cooler air and increased humidity may help aid firefighters with the westerly flow, persistent winds may remain an issue by fanning the flames of existent blazes.


Wind winds will vary greatly in direction and speed due to local terrain effects, winds will generally average from the south and southwest in the Sierra Nevada will average 15-25 mph with gusts in the neighborhood of 40 mph during Thursday night and Friday, before swinging around to the north Friday night.

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While the Pacific storm will continue to stir potentially disruptive, gusty winds, beneficial rain did arrive for some fire-ravaged areas.

Heavy rain soaked portions of northern California Wednesday night into Thursday where the Happy Camp and July Complex fires are burning.

Rainfall gauges reported around 1 to 3 inches of rain had fallen in this area as of early Thursday morning.

The King Fire, located in El Dorado County, California, has consumed over 95,000 acres. The blaze has sent out a great deal of smoke and was 55 percent contained as of early Friday, according to CAL FIRE. That is a significant improvement from Thursday morning, when the fire was only 38 percent contained. Many parts of the burn area picked up between 0.5 and 1 inch of rain on Thursday.

Gusty winds will blast this area, but some more showers are expected on Friday.

While the bulk of the rain will fall on the western slopes of the coastal ranges, Cascades and northern Sierra Nevada, some showers will spill farther east.

"Enough rain could fall to raise the risk of mudslides in recent burn areas," Clark said.

The heaviest and steadiest rain will stop short of the hardest-hit drought areas in the West. Much more rain will be needed to have significant impact on the drought over California and southeastern Oregon.

Spotty rain showers will affect parts of Southern California by this weekend. The showers will tend to diminish before reaching much of the Los Angeles basin.


Another large pulse of rain is forecast to develop, mainly east of California Friday night and Saturday.

The pattern can bring localized flash flooding and gusty thunderstorms from Arizona and the deserts of California to parts of Idaho and Wyoming.


However, the major cooldown will reach beyond areas receiving rain.

After much of this week with high temperatures in the 80s around Los Angeles, highs will be in the 70s this weekend. Sacramento will have its first day with highs in the 70s since Aug. 20.

"It may even get cold enough for a bit of snow to fall on the higher peaks of the Sierra Nevada later Friday and Saturday," Clark said.

Temperatures will dip into the upper 20s and lower 30s at Donner Pass, California, with snow showers possible Friday night and Saturday night. Meteorologist Jordan Root contributed content to this story.

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