Multiple atmospheric rivers to bring massive precipitation to West Coast

Portions of Northern California may receive more than 10 inches of precipitation during the next 7 days

9:58 a.m. PDT October 21, 2021

Cumulative precipitation, Oct. 21-28, 2021
Cumulative precipitation, Oct. 21-28, 2021. Issued 5 p.m. PDT Oct. 20, 2021.

Forecasts are still being fine-tuned, but it appears likely that areas of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington will receive huge amounts of precipitation over the next seven days, with portions of Northern California getting more than 10 inches.

At least four waves of atmospheric rivers are barreling across the Pacific targeting the West Coast. The animated GIF below illustrates the progression of these “rivers.”

atmospheric rivers

Predictions are subject to change, but the first band, beginning Thursday morning, will have the heaviest impacts in WA, OR, and northwest CA.

Sunday morning will bring another, centered in Central California.

The third wave will start to come through Tuesday, with the heaviest precipitation expected in Northern CA and OR.

The forecast could change over the next seven days, but the prediction is that another wave will primarily impact OR and WA on Thursday, Oct. 28.

With it already being the second half of October, it is likely that these atmospheric rivers will bring an end to the wildland fire season in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. Most of Southern California south of Santa Barbara is expected to receive less than a half inch of precipitation, so if the rest of of the year there is warm, dry, and windy the area could still see more wildfire activity.

The three-month temperature and precipitation outlook issued today predicts November through January conditions in SoCal that will be warmer and drier than average. But if significant precipitation occurs in the next seven days, it would require some serious Santa Ana wind events to dry the soils and vegetation enough to enable large fires to occur.

Three-month temperature and precipitation outlook
Three-month temperature and precipitation outlook issued October 21, 2021.

Lightning and showers hit parts of California, Oregon, and Nevada

9:43 a.m. PDT Sept. 10, 2021

Lighting, 24 hour period
Lightning during the 24-hour period ending at 6:44 a.m. PDT Sept. 10, 2021. The red strikes are the most recent.

Lightning, strong winds, and showers moved into California, Nevada, and Oregon Thursday afternoon. Friday morning at about 7 a.m. the National Weather Service reported approximately 1,100 ground strikes had occurred in California.

David Swain lightning

Most of Northern California and Central Oregon received at least a small amount of rain. While some weather stations recorded none or less than 0.05″ others measured more than 0.25″.

Precipitation, Western US, 24 hours
Precipitation, Western US, 24 hours ending at 7:10 am PDT Sept. 10, 2021.

All of the precipitation amounts below are for the 24-hour period ending at 7:10 a.m. PDT Sept. 10.

Maps of precipitation in California and Oregon–

Precipitation, Northern California, 24 hours
Precipitation, Northern California, 24 hours ending at 7:10 am PDT Sept. 10, 2021.
Precipitation, Oregon, 24 hours
Precipitation, Oregon, 24 hours ending at 7:10 am PDT Sept. 10, 2021

Continue reading “Lightning and showers hit parts of California, Oregon, and Nevada”

Briefing on five major wildfires in Oregon

Middle Fork, Rough Patch, Jack, Devils Knob, & Bull

4:18 p.m. Sept. 6, 2021

Map of Oregon Fires Sept. 6, 2021
Map of Oregon Fires Sept. 6, 2021.

There are five major wildfires or complexes of wildfires in western Oregon. None of them are raging, but there is not much standing in their way to to take off if a wind event comes over the horizon. The exception is the Jack Fire which is pretty quiet and only staffed by five personnel.

As you can see in the satellite photo below which shows approximately the same area as in the map above, an inversion is trapping smoke on the four southern-most blazes. This indicates that there is not much wind on the fire. The inversion and smoke partially block convection above the fire and solar heating of the vegetation, slowing the spread.

Satellite photo, Oregon Fires, 1:56 p.m. PDT Sept, 6, 2021
Satellite photo, Oregon Fires, 1:56 p.m. PDT Sept, 6, 2021.

Starting from the north, here are a few details about these five fires. The term “complex” means there is more than one fire being managed by the same Incident Management Team.

Bull Complex, 16,724 acres, Mt. Hood National Forest, 571 personnel. It is 18 miles east-northeast of Mill City. Following a round of lightning in the afternoon on August 2, four fires were identified on the south end of the Mt. Hood National Forest. Three, Janus, Kola, and Ridge Fires, were in the southeast corner of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness in the Janus Butte area. The fourth fire, Round Lake, was east of the wilderness. And a fifth, Ogre Creek Fire, was detected August 3 in the Round Lake area. By August 18 they had all merged. The fire is currently being managed by Northern Rockies Type 2 Team #4.

It is actively spreading to the west in Welcome, Mother Lode, Battle, and Elk Lake Creek drainages, and to the north along the ridges between Dickey Creek and the Collawash River.

Bull Complex of fires
Bull Complex of fires, Rhododendron Ridge, OR, Sept. 2, 2021 Inciweb.

Middle Fork Complex, 24,930 acres, Willamette NF, 2 fires, 686 personnel. It is 23 miles southeast of Eugene and is being managed by the Pacific Northwest Team 6, a Type 2 Team which says that many snags, steep terrain, and smoky conditions make direct attack unsafe. They are planning burning operations on the Gales Fire and are staffing both night and day shifts to take advantage of weather which is slowing the spread. Firefighters are preparing for heightened fire behavior on Tuesday afternoon.

On the Kwis Fire, an engine crew continues to break up and put out all remaining burning material near the fire perimeter. “Every once in a while, we find a stump hole burning,” said Field Operations Chief Ryan Sullivan.

Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex, OR
Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 16, 2021, InciWeb.

Rough Patch Complex, 41,185 acres, Umpqua NF, 4 fires, 714 personnel. It is 18 miles southwest of Oakridge and started July 29 from 20-plus lightning ignitions. Several more fires were later added to the complex including the Jack Fire when another storm moved through August 1, bringing the total to 42. On August 28th Northern Rockies Team 1 (Type 1 IMT) assumed command.  The Complex now consists of four fires: Chaos, Little Bend, Buckhead, and Near Minky, all being managed under a full suppression strategy. Firing operations on all four fires are either being planned, prepped, or are underway.

Jack Fire, 23,990 acres (grew by 4 acres in 24 hours), Umpqua NF,  5 personnel. It is 31 miles east of Roseburg. They are calling it full suppression but report that only 55 percent of the perimeter is contained.

Devils Knob Complex, 46,596 acres, Umpqua NF, 2 fires, 711 personnel. It is 20 miles northeast of Azalea. Initially it was a group of 43 fires mostly on the Tiller Ranger District that started from lightning on July 29 and August 1. All fires in the Complex are being managed under a full suppression strategy. On September 6, the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command.

The two largest fires still spreading are the Smith and Big Hamlin Fires. The Smith is primarily north of the South Umpqua River, while the Big Hamlin is south of the river. Of the two the Smith Fire is the most active. Firing operations are underway on these two fires. The other fires are being monitored and held.

Firefighter Devils Knob Complex of fires
Firefighter on the Devils Knob Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 13, 2021, InciWeb.

Firefighter killed while working on Oregon fire identified

Frumencio Ruiz Carapia
Frumencio Ruiz Carapia

The firefighter who died Monday while working on a wildfire southeast of Eugene, Oregon has been identified as 56-year old Frumencio Ruiz Carapia of Medford.

Mr. Carapia was working on the Gales Fire when he was struck by a falling tree, according to a news release Tuesday from Lane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Speldrich.

Despite immediate efforts by those around him, Ruiz Carapia died at the scene, the news release said. No other injuries were reported.

The 14,000-acre Gales Fire is part of the Middle Fork Complex of fires. Personnel across the complex shared a moment of silence Tuesday morning in his memory.

Mr. Carapia was a member of a contract Type 2 Initial Attack hand crew. Two other firefighters who were injured were treated at the scene.

“The wildland firefighting community and our partners mourn this loss,” said Incident Commander Brian Gales of Northwest 13 Incident Management Team. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Gales Fire map

A preliminary investigation showed the accident wasn’t the result of any tree cutting but that the tree unexpectedly snapped and fell to the ground, according to the sheriff’s office.

After his death Monday first responders formed a procession in the firefighter’s honor as his body, wrapped in an American flag, was wheeled past them before being prepared for transport back home.

Friends of Ruiz Carapia have established a GoFundMe page to support his wife and children.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden put out a statement regarding Ruiz Carapia’s death on Tuesday evening:

“A sad reminder about the dangers that firefighters face to protect all of us here in Oregon. My deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Mr. Carapia.”

We send out our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of Mr. Carapia.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Al and others.

Satellite photo shows Oregon and California fires spreading east

Satellite photo fires california oregon
by NASA’s GOES 17 at 6:41 p.m. PDT Aug 16, 2021.

This photo taken by the GOES 17 NASA satellite at 6:41 p.m. August 16 shows strong winds pushing smoke from the wildfires in California and Oregon to the east.

Four wildland firefighters receive minor injuries in vehicle rollover

Working on the Skyline Ridge Complex 22 miles southeast of Roseburg, Oregon

1:53 p.m. PDT August 12, 2021

Map of the Skyline Ridge Complex accident injuries firefighters
Map of the Skyline Ridge Complex of fires at 8:22 p.m. PDT August 11, 2021

Four firefighters assigned to the Skyline Ridge Complex of fires in Oregon were transported by ambulance Wednesday morning August 11 after their vehicle rolled over.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office reported that a crew vehicle transporting fire personnel from their night shift assignment on the Skyline Ridge Complex east of Canyonville struck approximately 60 to 70 feet of guardrail before driving up a hillside and rolling over. The crash resulted in non-life threatening injuries to four firefighters who were transported by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Oregon where they were treated and later released.

The call came in to 9-1-1 at approximately 9:53 a.m. of a single vehicle rollover crash in the 15000-block of Tiller Trail Highway roughly 10 miles east of Canyonville and Interstate 5.

The injured personnel are part of a 20-person crew assigned to the fire. Additional crew members traveling in two other vehicles were not involved in the accident.

Deputies determined the driver, a 38-year-old wildland firefighter from Salem, Oregon fell asleep at the wheel while returning to fire camp after working the night shift on the fire. Alcohol and speed were not contributing factors in the crash and no citations or arrests were made.

The Skyline Ridge Complex is a group of fires started from lightning on August 1, 2021 about south-southeast of Roseburg, Oregon. Combined, the fires have burned 3,546 acres.

These firefighters were very lucky. From 1990 through 2014, 22 percent of the wildland firefighter fatalities were the result of vehicle accidents.

Wildland firefighter fatalities 1990-2014

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Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly.