“Winds of the Devil” – The warm currents of AIR that generated the “HELL” of the FIRES in the wine region of CALIFORNIA
When the winds of the Devil begin to blow in the fall of northern California, almost everyone knows what that means: fire.
But last Sunday, just before midnight, the abrupt arrival of bursts of warm, dry air into the wine region in Napa and Sonoma counties took many by surprise, others asleep.
No one even explains how the fire originated.
It is only known that the winds of the Devil first arrived and then the night burned.
The next morning, there were already burnt forests, communities in danger, massive flight.
The winds, with bursts of more than 110 kilometers per hour, spread the flames across the region as one who drops a spark in a magazine.
The fires spread, leaving whole communities reduced to ashes and have become virtually uncontrollable.
At least 27 people were killed, many completely burned, more than 600 are missing and some 2,000 properties have been destroyed, according to preliminary investigations by the authorities.
More than 30,000 residents were evacuated, more than 91,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity and some 30,000 hectares of land was devastated by the flames.
It is the deadliest fire in California’s history since record keeping.
He even surpassed the “Oakland Fire Storm” in 1991, which left 25 dead.
And the rescue tasks become increasingly complicated because they continue to blow the powerful winds of the Devil, which spread and fan the fire disproportionately.
But what are these winds that have generated this “hell”? what is hidden behind its name of so dark reminiscences?
These are very common winds at this time of year in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California, according to BBC World Jan Null, professor of meteorology at San Jose State University and specialist for more than 40 years of the National Weather Service.
“What makes them peculiar is that it is a very dry mass of very hot air, which descends from the mountainous masses to the coastal zone. Because they are warm winds and that generate very strong bursts they are inclined to spread the fires,” he says.
“Everything looks like an internal war zone”: a “historic” fire devastates the California wine region and leaves at least 21 dead and more than 600 missing.
The impressive aerial images of the devastation left by the fires in the California wine region.
Null says that these currents, oscillating from land to the coast, are often a kind of reversal of the fresh and humid winds that generally blow the rest of the year from the sea to the interior of the continental zone.
They take their name, he explains, from two fundamental facts.
On the one hand, as they originate in the Great Basin, arriving at the bay area seems to blow from Mount Diablo, a mountain full of legends and mysteries since the times of the Spanish Conquest.
On the other hand, they are winds that generally are associated with the fires that usually affect during the autumns to California.
“It is a name that became very popular from the fires of Oakland in 1991. Many people associated those scenes with the stories we know about hell, something similar to what we are seeing now. warm and dry of the northeast that seems to come from Mount Diablo have come to be popularly named, “he says.
The Santa vs the Devil
Daniel Swain, a climate specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), explains to BBC Mundo that, although generally the winds of the Devil are usually confused with the most popular of Santa Ana, they are similar, but different phenomena.
“Santa Ana is the name given to this type of winds in Southern California and although these also spread fires, these are currents that originate in different geographical conditions,” he says.
In practical terms, he says, they originate in similar situations: they are strong currents of air, with bursts, dry and warm, which are generated especially high in the slopes and canyons, although those of Santa Ana arise many times from the desert’s interior, which is at a relative height greater than the coast.
However, he points out that the Devil’s sometimes get drier and hotter, so many of the biggest fires in California have been associated with that current.
But if it is wind blowing every year in the fall, what happened this time to generate a fire of these proportions?
Swain believes that the fire this year is the result of a succession of weather conditions that have coincided in a negative way.
California had since the end of 2016 one of the wettest winters in recent years.
“This, in turn, acted in a negative way, because after a period of great drought, this winter came with a lot of rain.This caused the vegetation to grow.Then came a very warm summer, with very high temperatures, which made the conditions for a large fire were very favorable, “he says.
This, he asserts, meant that the sudden arrival of the winds of the Devil propitiated a fire of this magnitude.
According to Null, the worst of what is happening now in the California wine region are not the fires themselves, but for the first time, they have reached highly populated areas.
The forecasts, according to Swain, are not at all flattering.
The winds of the Devil continue to blow with unusual intensity and are expected to continue this way during the weekend.
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