Last night the winds died down, which basically saved parts of Santa Barbara and Montecito (to the south along the coast).
As the eerie morning sun rises we'll be able to see the damage and find out what the winds are going to do now.
I'd like to make this diary Friday's mothership for fire coverage and concern. Unrec last night's and rec this one up, if you find it worthy.
I expect the morning will find firefighters everywhere establishing a perimeter around the fire. We don't have any fires in the LA Area or up north (and we hope that luck continues) so due to our cooperative agreements between fire agencies, we will see a lot of out-of-town trucks and fighters working this thing. Firefighters in California--especially SoCal--have extensive agreements and tight relationships enabling fast support. No one has enough resources to fight our fires on their own so these mutual relationships are vital to keeping California from burning to the sea every year.
See below for the morning National Weather Service technical forecast.
Resources: As noted last night, The Independent news weekly has been excellent for coverage over the last couple of years. KCAL had live chopper feeding raw footage on the Net last night, and while LA stations are ghoulishly focused on rich mansions in flames ("There's another five million dollar mansion in flames--see if you can get a tight focus!") it gives a feeling of the spread--or lack of it--during the fire.
If you have good sources for media coverage, post them. Some folks are keeping Google maps updated, the Independent comments have been listing them. (There's some idiot posting a nasty link in there too, so click on what look like valid links only.)
KEYT is the local TeeVee station and they can be, well, exasperating.
I'll update when I can; keep us posted in the comments. Thanks!
National Weather Forecast:
Southwest California area forecast discussion
National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard California
400 am PST Friday Nov 14 2008
A devastating night for the people in Montecito as sustained winds
45 to 55 miles per hour with gusts to 70 miles per hour persisted from 6pm through 11 PM
causing a fire storm yesterday evening before wind gusts started to
drop slowly through the overnight hours. The sba-bfl surface gradient
reached -7.4mb Thursday evening. This strong gradient set up
generally means that portions of the Santa Ynez range...especially
the hills above Montecito could experience very strong north to
northeast winds. Winds will diminish drastically by sunrise over
much of the Santa Barbara South Coast and adjacent foothills.
A strong 1036mb surface high sets up across Idaho and northern Nevada this
morning causing a stronger NE-SW gradient to develop across the
region. Winds will begin to shift to the northeast today as a
moderate Santa Ana wind event develops across the usual la/vtu
County wind prone areas through Saturday. High wind warnings will be
valid for the mountains of la/vtu counties by 8 am this morning.
Expect wind gusts to 60 miles per hour today...with higher gusts to 70 miles per hour
later this evening through Saturday early afternoon in windiest
locations. The San Fernando...Santa Clarita and Ventura County
valleys will follow suit by being upgraded to a High Wind Warning by
noon today and continue through the same time period. Since the
NAM-WRF continues to advertise lax-dag surface gradient at -7.1mb by 12z Sat
morning...with decent upper level support and some cool air advection
expected overnight...high wind warnings seem reasonable for the
valleys. Temperatures should reach the lower 90s across the la/vtu County
coastal and valley locations today and will continue through Sunday
while the interior portions of the forecast area only reach the
upper 70s. There could be a degree or two of cooling across la/vtu
County valleys Saturday with some cool air advection moving into the
Antelope Valley...while the coastal areas remain near 90 degrees
through Sunday due to compressional heating through mountain and
valley passes and canyons. Some coastal cities could have the
warmest temperatures in the USA today through sun. La/vtu County mountains will
likely need wind advisories Sat afternoon through Sunday morning as
winds should decrease some but maintain offshore flow to help keep
temperatures well warmer than normal through Sunday.
9:15 Update: Press conference is going on now, Sheriff Brown estimates over a hundred houses burned. Estimate 2500 people evacuated. They are setting up people for immediate evacuation if the winds come up, for homes all around the area and especially below APS.
Rode over to my business on lower Milpas on my Vespa, there's smoke hanging pretty much over the fire area. The winds are gentle and seem to be a balance between down-slope, offshore, and light ocean breezes.
Water bombers are flying for the canyon and slope burning.
BTW, live raw video from KTLA helicopter
9:45: Huge plume of dark black smoke straight up from the area behind the Riviera, probably a house or houses as that's usually black smoke, probably Las Alturas road area.
10:07: I count at least three, maybe four fixed wing aircraft making drops, two heavy helicopters. Seem to be focusing on the area behind the Riviera. Probably more I can't see from lower Milpas.
10:15: Holy Shit! The DC10 is here! I just saw it fly by and KCAL is shooting it from their helicopter on their raw feed.
11:00: Watching the raw video from the helicopter (KCAL) the Sycamore Canyon, Coyote Road, Conejo Road area is devastated, house after house gone. Lot of low-end homes in this area, not mansions, include several friends of ours who have now lost their homes.
It appears that the DC-10 is focused on the North side of the fire area, laying down retardant above the fire. The fear is that if the fire climbs north into the ridges and canyons, it could circle around behind the rest of the city, including Mission Canyon and behind the rest of Montecito, which, with enough wind, could drive it into the main part of the city. It's our worst case nightmare. The helicopters seems to be focusing on hot spots that are burning to the south and east of the fire area, cutting off advance opportunities there.
Again, the aim is to build a perimeter around the fire so if the winds come up they've got a fighting chance tonight to hold the line. The problem is that the line is in all directions and that's a lot of firefighting to do. There's basically no place you can let it go without serious damage; you have to defend the entire perimeter.
11:23: Quoting KCAL a thousand firefighters in the area, working defensively to protect areas.
11:45: The fire looks like it's picking up a bit, new smoke, but the GOOD NEWS is it's all blowing back, the ocean breeze seems to be dominate at this point. Let's hope this holds.
From the National Weather Service, 9am update: (note the "Southern SB" bit--that's the important bit.)
Morning update...winds starting to shift towards a typical Santa Ana pattern with the focus shifting now from southern sba County to
Ventura and Los Angeles counties. All warnings have been dropped in
sba County while warnings/advisories just getting started across
Ventura and la counties. The forecast remains largely unchanged.
Strong northeast winds expected today through midday Saturday.
Offshore flow will weaken Saturday afternoon but locally gusty winds
still possible through Sunday morning, especially in the mountains.
1:00pm: There are six helicopters in a "daisy chain" running water drops in on hot spots. Report of at least two large bombers dropping "phostec" (sp?), including the DC-10 and a four-engine mil plane (I actually see a four-engine and maybe (2) two-engine + the DC-10). There are many hot spots at the moment, but the fire isn't burning crazy at this time. But the wind is changing and while gentle, it's coming in hot from the Northeast.
1:40: The sky is remarkably clear of heavy smoke, but the air is suddenly hot and the wind has shifter to offshore. I can't get a firm gasp at any significant weather change at the moment, but this is classic Santa Ana/sundowner wind behavior. Let's see if all the work the firefighters did pays off. I do see more smoke over behind the Montecito area...
BTW, not to turn nasty on anyone, but I just talked to a battalion chief of a strike team who says the command has put the fire "camp" (headquarters) at Live Oak Campground, which is 40 minutes with no traffic from the fire, over the hill in Santa Ynez valley. Who's smart idea was THAT?
1:56: Just heard from the people feeding the firefighters that they are are setting up to serve 1200 people tonight. Whew!