BIG WAVES AND HIGH FIRE DANGER EXPECTED IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY

WEATHER SERVICE: LARGE SWELLS EXPECTED AT BEACHES, HIGH GUSTS IN THE MOUNTAINS

By Calvin Men, Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ >> The National Weather Service station in Monterey is warning people to be mindful on land and sea after it issued warnings of large swells and fire conditions Friday.

Central Coast surfers can expect larger swells this weekend as a result of an Alaskan Gulf storm, said Bob Benjamin, forecaster for the service.

North Coast beaches facing the west and northwest, such as Davenport, could see swells approaching 9 to 11 feet Saturday, according to the service. Sunday, waves could be as high as 11 to 13 feet at periods of 16 to 17 seconds.

“For a lot of Santa Cruzans, it’s like, all right, surf’s up dude,” he said. “But the reality is that the surf’s up and so is the danger.”

There also will be sneaker waves and strong rip currents as a result, Benjamin said.

South-facing beaches, like Main and Cowell, will only see an increase to a lesser degree, according to the service. Despite that, people should still be mindful in these areas for hazardous beach conditions, Benjamin said.

The last light of day provides the subtle light for a final frolic in the Monterey Bay at New Brighton State Beach. (Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)
The last light of day provides the subtle light for a final frolic in the Monterey Bay at New Brighton State Beach. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

“We do lose a lot of people at the beaches and it’s more common during these conditions,” he said.

In addition, a red flag warning is in effect from 3 a.m. Sunday to 5 p.m. Monday for gusty winds and low humidity for areas above 1,000 feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Winds are expected to blow out of the northeast, pushing warmer air with a humidity level of 8 to 18 percent, Benjamin said. As a result, the fog and clouds that typically hovers in the mountains won’t be there.

“If a fire starts, it could spread very rapidly and that’s what happens in these red flag warning scenarios,” he said.

Winds of 10 to 20 mph and strong gusts could down power lines and potentially start fires, according to the service. Other fires that start could grow quickly because of the weather and drought conditions.

The warning is more for park and fire officials, who usually increase staffing needs accordingly.

“It’s an advisory that we’re going to have high fire danger so it just makes everybody pay more attention,” said Tony Fata, fire captain for Cal Fire. “To be on high alert I guess you could say.”

But the fire agency has been at full staffing level since June because of drier than usual conditions as a result of the drought. Though staffing levels and response can’t be elevated higher, the red flag warning

“When a red flag comes to us, it’s a reminder that anything during this period could be something,” he said, adding that instead of sending two engines and a battalion chief, the response would be heightened to include aircraft, bulldozers and a bevy of engines.

The staffing level likely will stay there until forecasters say there is no more danger, which usually comes after period of consistent significant rainfall.

“During the fire season, especially during the end of fire season,we’re always looking for a little help with some rain to lessen the conditions and prevent loss to anybody if we have a fire,” he said.

Forecast: High temperatures

Saturday Sunday

Santa Cruz 78 84

Watsonville 77 84

Felton 87 92

Scotts Valley 86 92

Original story here: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_26705322/big-waves-and-high-fire-danger-expected-santa

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