UPDATE: Rare August Thunderstorm Rocks San Francisco Bay Area; Lightning Strikes Spark Widespread Wildfires

UPDATE: Rare August Thunderstorm Rocks San Francisco Bay Area; Lightning Strikes Spark Widespread Wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A rare August severe storm system rolled through the San Francisco Bay Area early Sunday, packing a combination of dry lightning and high winds that triggered wildfires throughout the region.

The National Weather Service on Sunday extended a red flag fire warning for the entire Bay Area until 11 a.m. Monday morning.

“Any lightning strikes will likely lead to new fire starts given the current heat wave,” forecasters warned. “A secondary pulse of moisture and instability arrives later Sunday into early Monday.”

Strong storm cells continued to roll into the San Francisco Bay at 9 a.m. and were lined up off the San Mateo coast.

The Special Weather Statement will be allowed to expire at 9:30 am. Thunderstorms remain in the area with lightning still being observed.#CAwx pic.twitter.com/8c7d05rR9d

— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) August 16, 2020

High winds downed PG&E lines, triggering power outages from neighborhoods in San Rafael all the way into western Marin County. Utility officials said there were thousands of others throughout the Bay Area.

The major outages included 15,000 customers in Sonoma County, 8,000 in Marin County, 6,000 in the San Lorenzo/Hayward area and 4,000 in South Bay, along with a large number of smaller outages around the region.

In Santa Clara County, fire officials said downed power lines sparked a fire in an unincorporated area on Brush Road near state Highway 17 that started just before 3 a.m. and forced the evacuation of 20 residents. It was contained by 6 a.m. after burning a little more than an acre.

Lightning strikes twice over the San Francisco Bay at sunrise. #thunderstorm #storm #Lightning pic.twitter.com/miDWFcmLy7

— Joe Vazquez (@joenewsman) August 16, 2020

Woke up early in Redwood City and grabbed my camera. This was the 2nd photo I took. #CAwx #Lightning pic.twitter.com/go4gcVOQk1

— John B (@bolhuijo) August 16, 2020

#lightning it’s still going at 8am! pic.twitter.com/NcFRC4uuBc

— Brad (@bRadHMB) August 16, 2020

Bay Area firefighters were busy as the storm moved through. Calfire tweeted that its crews on the San Francisco Peninsula had responded to 11 fires since 1:00 a.m. — 7 in Santa Cruz County and 4 in San Mateo County.

“Most presumed to have started from lightning strikes,” Calfire officials tweeted. “Forward progress has been stopped on most of these fires. We’re working to get more resources, stretched thin due to heavy fire activity.”

PG&E webcams captured images of a rather large wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains at around 5:30 a.m. Additional strike teams were rushed to the area by 6 a.m. with high winds spreading the fire and threatening structures. Air support was requested to begin at daylight.

Wildfire detected near Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz mtns:https://t.co/X1ueJqiIBc pic.twitter.com/jFrIqMlFNJ

— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) August 16, 2020

Marin County Fire reported at 4:15 a.m. that its crews were “responding to numerous lightning strikes in the area of King Mountain and San Geronimo and throughout the county. No current evacuation orders or warnings in place.”

Fire crews were able to quickly contained a vegetation fire burning on the ridges on the Zig Zag Trail. Smoke was also seen from a small fire on Mt. Tam.

Marin County working numerous small lighting fires. Smoke Is visible on Mount Tam below Throckmorton Station. No current evacuations orders or warnings in Marin County. pic.twitter.com/1Z0nxilqNJ

— Marin County Fire (@marincountyfire) August 16, 2020

Calfire sent crews to a lightning cause fire in the area of 20730 Brush Road in Redwood Estates Area that initially threatened homes and forced some evacuations before forward progress was halted around 4 a.m. Another wildfire erupted near Highway 1 north of Davenport and had grown to 3 acres.

Crews were also dispatched to battle a growing vegetation fire in the area of 5201 Arroyo Road in Livermore.


— Alameda County Fire (@AlamedaCoFire) August 16, 2020

By 6:35 a.m, Calfire reported that firefighters had aggressively attacked the 2-alarm Arroyo fire, a blaze fueled an Eucalyptus grove, and had held it at 50 acres and with 50% containment.

Meanwhile, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department alerted that “law enforcement and fire personnel are receiving multiple calls for service involving downed trees and powerlines. A few spot fires within the county have also been reported.”

@MaryKPIX⁩ ⁦@ROrozcoKTVU⁩ Pleasanton Dublin pic.twitter.com/QKylREvokY

— Rick Martinez (@hobielife) August 16, 2020

The @NWS has issued severe thunderstorm warnings for N CA & the lightning produced by these storms has already led to multiple fires starting. A wildfire can spark at any time so it is important for you and your family to stay prepared. Learn more at https://t.co/sWZPp02O9t pic.twitter.com/Jnvzl7602Y

— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) August 16, 2020

In Contra Costa County, there were several fires in the area of Morgan Territory and Marsh Creek roads near Mt. Diablo State Park. Officials said the fires were putting out a lot of smoke, but not threatening structures. Units from Cal Fire, the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District were among those who responded.

By 10 a.m. the fires had grown to a total of 100 acres with zero containment.

More new fires starting, most likely from lightning. This one out in the Diablo Range of Santa Clara county.https://t.co/bREsU5bfjs pic.twitter.com/IdUGOCFqed

— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) August 16, 2020

In the South Bay near Salinas, firefighters were battling a growing 20-acre blaze in Pine Canyon.

#RiverFire S of Salinas (Monterey Co) currently 20 acres, 5% contained. No structures threatened, no evacuations pic.twitter.com/BJgdcOWq1S

— CAL FIRE BEU (@CALFIREBEU) August 16, 2020

The smoke-filled Bay Area skies also led to an air quality advisory being issued through Monday.

“Numerous lightning strikes overnight have sparked wildfires across the region,” air quality officials said Sunday. “Air quality may deteriorate in areas near or downwind of the fires…If the smell of smoke is present, it is important that Bay Area residents protect their health by avoiding exposure.”

The intensity of the storm system triggered an early morning severe thunderstorm warning for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. The warning for Contra Costa, Alameda, Napa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties was extended until 8 a.m. and even after it expired the lightning and thunder continued.

The weather service also issued a special marine warning for the waters of San Francisco, San Pablo, Suisun Bays and the west Delta.

Wild lightning tonight along the coast, as seen from Pacifica, CA. #CAwx @NWSBayArea pic.twitter.com/WJhvq7l7lg

— Jeff (@Negative_Tilt) August 16, 2020

Bay Area residents also took to social media with remarkable images of the lightning storm. Many commented how strange it was to experience a “midwest” style lightning storm in the Bay Area.

Rare thunder and lightning storm over the SF Bay Area. pic.twitter.com/OZQC5wJjbk

— Paul Robbins Holland (@paulrholland) August 16, 2020

Summer in San Francisco🥰 #Lightning #SundayMorning #BayArea pic.twitter.com/0r0cr1LzB8

— Kayla Chan (@kayylachan) August 16, 2020

Woke up to this in the Bay Area today #lightning pic.twitter.com/soFjXWTk4V

— Snigdha Goyal (@snigdha_goyal) August 16, 2020

The National Weather Service said wind gusts generated by the fast-moving system were being clocked as high as 66 mph. NWS Forecasters reported gusts of 66 mph on Atlas Peak, 65 mph at Hawkeye, 48 mph at St. St Helena, 45 mph on Mt. Tam and 42 mph on Mt Diablo.

“The cluster of severe thunderstorms are generating extremely strong erratic wind gusts which can cause downed trees, power lines, and other structural damage as well as difficulty driving,” NWS forecasters tweeted.

@NBCNews @NWSBayArea @SPaulsonKTVU @RobMayeda @jimcantore @weather_west

#lightning #bayarea #thunderstorms pic.twitter.com/UPqUGr6x3v

— CrashingOut (@crashingout) August 16, 2020

They also posted on Twitter a photo of a massive, rare “roll cloud” along the Santa Cruz Coast shortly before 3 a.m.

A massive fast-moving apparent “Roll Cloud” impacted the Santa Cruz Coast shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday morning. #CAwx @RobMayeda @Weather_West @danncianca pic.twitter.com/jFSmWGyxiA

— Jaden Schaul (@jadenschaul) August 16, 2020

The storm came as the region has been locked into a sweltering heat wave. Record temperatures again fell across the region on Saturday and the early morning rains would only provide a brief respite. Forecasters predicted another four days of temperatures in the triple digits in the inland areas.

It was dangerously hot for many in the Bay Area, some even broke their record high for today. Make sure you stay safe and weather aware!#CAwx pic.twitter.com/n9n4nPCS9a

— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) August 16, 2020

Read More


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here