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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 11:40 am | Partly Cloudy 62º


Forecasters Offer Mixed News on Weather Front for Thomas Fire

Weather has been described as the key to gaining the upper hand on the giant Thomas Fire, and the outlook Monday and through the week is mixed, according to the National Weather Service.

The good news is winds in the Santa Barbara area on Monday morning were relatively light, according to Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

They are likely to pick up during the afternoon and evening, Kittell said, shifting to the northeast and gusting to 30 mph.

The wind is expected to weaken somewhat on Tuesday, Kittell said, but stay in the pattern of calm mornings and more breezy afternoons and evenings.

By Friday afternoon, “the winds will shift 180 degrees,” Kittell said, and start blowing from the west and northwest.

Theoretically, that would have the effect of pushing flames from the fire back toward Ventura County and areas that already have burned, and give firefighters a chance to construct and strengthen containment lines.

A Red Flag fire weather warning that had been effect for the Santa Barbara County mountain areas expired at 6 p.m. Sunday, although it remains in effect through Monday evening for Ventura County. These warnings signify a higher risk of fire due to strong winds and low relative humidity. 

The bad news is that by Sunday, the weather pattern is likely to shift again, Kittell said, to an offshore flow from the east.

Also unwelcome news is the expected continuation of very low relative humidity.

Most areas around the fire have recorded relative humidity of 5-10 percent, Kittell said, which coupled with heavy brush and parched vegetation creates prime conditions for rapid fire spread.

He noted that the Montecito foothills recorded relative of humidity of just 4 percent on Monday morning, and saw very little recovery overnight.

“There’s very little range,” Kittell said. “It’s almost like a flat line if you were to graph it.”

As for the smoke that’s been plaguing the South Coast and the rest of Santa Barbara County, there’s no relief in sight.

“It’s going to be an issue through the week,” Kittell said.

And for those wondering about rain, there’s nothing in the forecast.

“There’s no chance of rain for next 7-10 days that we see,” Kittell said.

Santa Barbara has received less than half an inch of rain since the rain year began on Sept. 1, and its rainfall was at 13 percent of normal. The figure for the county as a whole is 14 percent.

Click here for the latest weather forecast from the National Weather Service. 

Click here for information about air quality face masks and distributions throughout Santa Barbara County.

Click here for the latest evacuation orders and notices for Santa Barbara County.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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