Sunday, May 28, 2023

Nocturnal Lightning Flares Across Mendocino County Skies Last Night and More Expected This Afternoon


Mendocino County residents gazed upon illuminated skies late last night as lightning crawled across the lower atmosphere. Doug Boushey, a meteorologist working for the National Weather Office in Eureka for the last 27 years, predicted lightning activity this afternoon could prove more active as the daytime heat rises destabilizing the lower atmosphere.

The National Weather Service has predicted more lightning this afternoon/evening across Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties’ skies accompanied by gusty winds and hail up to a half-inch in diameter.

[Infographic provided by the National Weather Service]

Boushey said analysis of the National Lightning Detection system indicated there were upwards of 20 cloud-to-ground strikes last night east of Willits and in other areas of northern Mendocino County. He pointed out the detection system does not document cloud lightning activity that many Mendocino County residents witnessed.

Boushey pointed out that last night’s lightning storm was a “nocturnal storm” which is typically the most difficult to predict.

Compared to the conditions related to last August’s fires that flared up in the aftermath of a lightning storm, Boushey said that despite the extreme drought, the current vegetation is not nearly as dry and the daytime temperatures are not as high. 

Addressing the relationship between lightning storms and wildfires, Boushey said lightning strikes could result in what he described as “sleeper fires.” These “sleeper fires” are caused by smoldering embers left after lightning strikes in vegetation which then can be accelerated into full-blown wildfires when the day brings wind and higher temperatures.

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Boushey described last August’s lightning storm as “carpet bombing lightning” which struck dozens of times over a broad swath of geography during a low humidity, high-temperature system. He said that last night and this afternoon’s lightning does not have a similar atmospheric backdrop. 

Boushey said the National Weather Service has not issued a Red Flag Warning in response to the predicted lightning because “we’re thinking the fuels are not quite susceptible yet.” 

Looking towards the future, Boushey said the National Weather Service is seeing signs of a system coming in towards the end of next week where temperatures could be dropping significantly. He said some regions in higher elevation Mendocino and Humboldt Counties could see frost developing in the early mornings.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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