Wildfires: 1100 Lightning Strikes in a Single Night Ignites New Blazes in California

by Courtney Blackann

California keeps taking hits. Literally. After the deadly Caldor and Dixie fires gripped the state throughout July and August, the region grappled with yet another issue Wednesday night: Lightning storms. While this usually means thunder and rain – which would benefit the drought-stricken area, the storms were mostly dry. This caused a string of new fires to erupt.

Nearly 1,110 lightning strikes hit the area over San Francisco as a series of thunderstorms moved in Wednesday evening. Near the Caldor Fire, firefighters were evacuated to where the strikes ignited new fires, according to CNN.

“Approximately ~1100 cloud to ground strikes in the state since last evening,” tweeted the National Weather Service in San Francisco.

The dry weather and record temperatures this summer didn’t help the region’s protection against the fires.

“For many outside of the western states, lightning means heavy rain, and although some storms do bring rain, many are considered dry storms that don’t produce enough rainfall to extinguish the fire that was created,” said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Droughts have been affecting many states in the west, including Oregon, Montana, California and Washington. California’s wildfires this summer have been some of the worst the state has ever seen.

Further, a NOAA satellite captured the thunderstorm and strikes as they moved east late last night over the dry land,

“Droughts are part of a vicious cycle that reinforces itself,” CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. “When a major drought is in place, like in California now, there is significantly less water and moisture in the ground and thus in the atmosphere via a lack of evaporation. This makes ‘dry thunderstorms’ much more likely during a drought year.”

Caldor and Dixie Fire Impact

After the July Dixie fire took hold of the region, it burned close to 1 million acres of land. It destroyed over 1,000 structures and displaced even more people. Firefighters have been working around the clock to stifle its damage.

That’s when the Caldor Fire ignited near El Dorado County and crept toward the Lake Tahoe basin. It has destroyed 200,000 acres of land and nearly 500 homes in addition to several commercial structures. As it crept toward Lake Tahoe before Labor Day weekend, officials encouraged visitors to change their plans.

Air quality dipped to a 694 API level on the air quality index, making the air potent. Tens of thousands evacuated and businesses closed, losing out on millions of dollars brought in by tourists.

Lindsay Bryant, of Lake Tahoe Boat Rides, estimated her business lost about a third of its revenue for the year. Labor Day weekend was the end of the area’s peak season. However, the Caldor Fire still threatens, putting certain areas at risk.

“We were pretty solidly booked,” she shared with The Mercury News, “And now we’ve obviously canceled and refunded everything, just about.”