An ‘abnormal,’ monsoon-like weather pattern hits Southern California, causing wildfires in Bakersfield. California governor Gavin Newsom warns about the impact on human health of smoke from the wildfires, and on a new firefighting technology that can capture and contain fires faster and easier. A California governor warns of potential health dangers from smoke from the wildfires burning in nearby areas of California.
It was a wet, miserable day in the Los Angeles basin. The forecast called for a strong storm to make landfall over Southern California, where two fires had been burning on the evening of Sept. 9. Just after 10 p.m. that night, the National Weather Service in Oxnard reported a weather pattern that was “abnormal” in its severity.
It would be a month before the agency reported anything like this, and two months before the first major wildfire in the L.A. Basin would begin. But the record pace of fire-fighting had been a concern for years and was only set to accelerate under new leadership at the weather service. One of those officials, meteorologist Peter Taylor, made the warning for the L.A. Basin public at last week’s dedication of the new weather station on the campus of Los Angeles State University.
“This is one of the biggest things I have seen in my career since I was on the forecasting staff,” Taylor said about the record rainfall-driven flooding, which brought flooding to the Channel Islands and a massive mudslide to the beaches near Santa Barbara last week.
Yet the meteorologists who were warning of an “abnormal” weather cycle in southern California had been ignored for nearly a decade. Taylor was a senior state forecaster, the person who helped to create the weather service to replace the one that had been established in 1949. Then the two agencies were merged several years ago to reduce duplication—an argument for merging the weather service into the water resources division, but that never happened.
What is now called the Los Angeles County Water Authority—which controls the Santa Ana reservoir, two reservoirs created through desilting of the Santa Ana River, and the Los Angeles sewer system—did not exist before the merger. So Taylor was