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Record-breaking dry conditions are making Southern California wildfires much harder to fight

Parts of Southern California are experiencing record-breaking dry conditions, making it harder to fight fireswhen combined with Santa Ana winds.

With the arrival of winter, weather systems move across the region more slowly when compared with the fall. This season that means prolonged dry conditions across Southern California, with some cities seeing no rain at all.

“In December we usually get some storms down here, but we’ve had a ridge over the West Coast that’s blocking everything,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Brandt Maxwell. “Once we get into December the weather patterns are much less changeable, once we get a ridge over the West Coast it will stay for weeks on end. In the fall things move quicker.”

No rain has been recorded since Oct. 1 in Big Bear. Riverside has gotten .03 inches of rain so far this rain season, the second driest start to the rainy season after no rain was recorded in 1929, Maxwell said.

Los Angeles International Airport has had .01 inches this year, a low last seen in 1962.

“One-hundredth of one inch isn’t enough to do any good,” Maxwell said.

Santa Ana has had only .04 inches of rain, the second lowest rain record when compared with .02 in 1976.

“Really you don’t do much good until you get at least one or two inches – at least – hopefully more,” Maxwell said. “Difference between zero and two and three-hundredths is essentially nothing. You’d get more out of fog dripping when you have that low of amounts.”

The record-breaking lows in rain are only exacerbating firefighting conditions, as brush that is normally green by December remains brittle and brown.

Nearly a dozen out-of-control fires from Ventura County to San Diego County have charred some 200,000 acres and claimed dozens of homes. At least one person died while fleeing the fires. Dozens of horses and domestic animals have died as raging wildfires approached stables before many people could evacuate horses, leaving the tight-knit equestrian community shaken.

Dry conditions could continue through the end of December.

“The next 10 days maybe even 14 days will remain dry,” Maxwell said. “Whether it will be dry through the end of December, we can’t be sure.

“At this point it doesn’t look good.”

source: dailynews

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