West Coast braces for heat wave, raising fears of wildfires in Northern California

Near-record high temperatures are expected to roast the West Coast next week, with gusty, dry winds raising the danger of fire in a region still coping with last year’s deadly wildfires.

Forecasters issued the year’s first red-flag warning of high fire danger in portions of the Central Valley of California and areas north of San Francisco starting Saturday.

On the other side of the continent, a slow-moving area of low pressure interacting with deep tropical moisture will continue to generate widespread moderate-to-heavy rains across the southeastern U.S. throughout the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

The heaviest rains are forecast Saturday along the Florida Panhandle northward into the southern Appalachians and the Piedmont region. Flooding conditions are likely in areas such as Atlanta, Nashville and Raleigh.

AccuWeather warns that as much as 3 to 5 inches of rain could fall each day during the weekend in the target areas, while some could see a foot or more of rain.

On the West Coast, the heat wave is expected to boost temperatures from Washington state to California. 

AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun says high temperatures will exceed the century mark in much of central California early next week.

“Monday will mark the first 100-degree day in Sacramento, California, since Aug. 18, 2018,” he says.

As the state braces for hot, dry weather, Pacific Gas & Electric warns it might turn off electricity to thousands of customers in Northern California this weekend to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Last year, power lines sparked a fire last year that killed 85 people and wiped out nearly 15,000 homes in Paradise.

The shut down could hit several counties in the North Bay and Sierra Nevada foothills, areas where the state’s most devastating wildfires occurred the past two years.

After PG&E power lines and equipment were blamed for previous fires, the utility has been under enormous pressure to avoid another deadly blaze.

“We know how much our customers rely on electric service and would only consider temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety during extreme weather conditions,” Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations, said in a statement.

The utility said it considers several factors when determining if power should be turned off for safety concerns, including bouts of excessive winds and low humidity when vegetation is dried out and can easily ignite.

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Elsewhere, scattered strong to severe thunderstorms were expected across the northern and central Plains through Saturday night, the weather service says.

Contributing: Associated Press

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