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Amid record heat in Southern California, fears of new drought

Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

The extreme heat has been noticeable across California.

"This year, we're seeing some of these dramatic examples. ... When it's 106 in San Francisco, that gets people's attention," Swain said.

The hot and dry weather has come with danger, with Southern California getting an unusually persistent pattern of Santa Ana winds blowing from inland to the coast, raising fire risk. A small brush fire broke out early Monday in Malibu, threatening homes before firefighters were able to knock it down.

Malibu is used to the brush fire danger, but some residents said a January blaze is unusual.

"The fire was right in his backyard. We saw at least three helicopters drop water and there were a few firefighter engines that came on our block," said resident Brian Rapf, a real estate agent. "If it wasn't for them, the houses on our street would have burned."

Rapf said heavy Santa Ana winds helped fuel the fire, but that the dry brush made the situation even more dangerous.

 

"This time last year, it would have been impossible because the hills were green from all the rain," he said.

Northern California has fared better than Los Angeles, but there is still cause for concern. San Francisco is at 65 percent of average precipitation and San Jose at 70 percent, with the Bay Area affected by the same mass of high pressure as Southern California, said meteorologist Jan Null.

The snow in the Sierra Nevada, California's greatest mountain range, has been disappointing compared with last year's record-breaking season. At Mammoth Mountain, snow has been decent at the highest elevations, but at some lodges the snow was dispiritedly thin.

"Unfortunately, the water content of the January snowpack is only slightly higher than it was in January 2015, while we were in the middle of a crippling statewide drought," John Leahigh, executive manager of water operations for the State Water Project, said in a statement. "However, we are only halfway through California's rainy season and have many opportunities to see a significant improvement in conditions."

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