Tropical Storm Kay: Fierce winds batter Southern California as Kay intensifies warm weather and begins dumping on flood-prone areas

The severe weather is coming as Tropical Storm Kay makes its way north after making landfall Thursday in Mexico as a Category 1 storm. Although Kay has weakened to a tropical storm, it still packs 45 mph winds. And it boosts mountain winds — similar to a Santa Ana wind event — to stronger gusts, including a 109-mph blast Friday on Cuyamaca Peak in the San Diego Mountains, the Reported by the National Weather Service.
As Kay’s swirling winds push warm, dry air from the east, much of Southern and Central California — already baking through a climate crisis-fueled heat wave — will remain under an extreme heat warning until 8 pm Friday. And concern is growing that erratic, strong winds will spread burning wildfires, including the Fairview Fire, which killed two people and exploded this week, forcing evacuations as it burned more on 27,000 hectares.

Rain from Kay began falling Friday in far Southern California, including San Diego, and far southwestern Arizona, including Yuma, as flash flooding risks increased.

While rain is set for Saturday to quell the intense heat — bringing relief to weary residents and power grid operators braced for rolling outages — it could also trigger debris flow, especially in areas ravaged by fire. A flash flood warning is in effect in southwestern Imperial County, while watches cover more than 6 million people across Southern California, including Palm Springs, Riverside and Barstow; southern Nevada, including Las Vegas; and western Arizona, including Yuma, Lake Havasu City and Kingman.
And even though the Western US has been plagued by drought for months, up to 4 inches of rain in just two days won’t bring the kind of recovery needed. Indeed, the Imperial Valley region, home to one of the nation’s most productive farm belts and suffering from a severe drought since early spring, is now bracing for serious damage.

“Imperial Valley farmers are in the middle of preparing their fields for planting season, so a half inch to 1 inch of rain will cause damage and delay their schedule,” said Robert Schettler, a spokesman for in the Imperial Irrigation District.

While the damage Kay left behind is not yet known, the storm is expected to leave more moderate temperatures in its path as it turns Saturday night off the US West Coast and pushes out into the Pacific.

Meanwhile, wildfires also continue to ravage Northern California, while Oregon faces increased fire danger as similarly strong easterly winds blow in from a separate weather system.

Record high temperatures and rain may break

With triple-digit temperatures likely to continue Friday for much of California, new record highs are expected to be set before Kay’s cool-down lasts.

Los Angeles weather officials reported temperature of 97 degrees Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport — beating its previous record for the date of Sept. 8, set in 1984. The city of Paso Robles, California, also broke its record for that date, with 108 degrees; its previous record of 106 was set last year.
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Behind the heat, the fast, heavy deluge could also rewrite the record books. Two to 4 inches are expected in 36 hours Friday and Saturday at Imperial County Airport, which on average gets 2.38 inches of rain per year. If Imperial receives more than 3 inches of rain, it will make it the wettest September on record; the previous wettest September was in 1976.

In Palm Springs, which typically sees 4.61 inches of rain annually, 2 to 4 inches is forecast. Three inches in Palm Springs would place this month in the top three wettest Septembers for the city, where the average September rainfall was 0.24 inches.

And Yuma will see 1.5 inches — which would make 2022 the wettest September since 2009. The city’s average September rainfall is 0.68 inches.

Fire problems affect California and Oregon

While the rain will no doubt help firefighters trying to extinguish the wildfires, much damage has already been done: California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday declared a state of emergency for three counties in two fire
Beyond the Fairview Fire, the Mosquito Fire in Northern California’s El Dorado and Placer counties had burned more than 13,700 acres and was 0% contained as of Thursday night, according to Cal Fire. Evacuation orders is issued for parts of Placer County, and some El Dorado County residents were warned to prepare for the possibility of evacuations, officials said.
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The fire, which threatens more than 3,600 structures, showed “extreme fire behavior and growth” Thursday and is burning in “extremely difficult terrain,” according to Cal Fire.
“Both fires are threatening many communities and critical infrastructure, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents,” the governor’s office said in a statement.

Oregon, meanwhile, faces strong easterly winds that will increase fire danger across the state due to a weather system separate from Kay.

“The red flag warning … will be in effect this FRIDAY and SATURDAY, due to expected strong easterly winds and low humidity. These conditions could cause the fire to spread quickly,” the National Weather Service in Portland tweeted.
Wind gusts are expected to reach 25 to 50 mph in the region, according to a tweet from the weather service on Portland.

Utility companies Pacific Power and Portland General Electric have announced they may proactively turn off power in some high-risk areas to reduce the risk of fire.

The outages will be implemented “in a limited high-risk area to help reduce wildfire risk and to help protect people, property and the environment,” Portland General Electric said in a release. The move could affect about 30,000 customer meters in the Portland and Salem, Oregon area, the utility said.

About 12,000 Pacific Power customers in Linn, Douglas, Lincoln, Tillamook, Marion and Polk counties have been notified of potential shut-offs, that provider said in a statement.

CNN meteorologists Taylor Ward and Allison Chinchar, and CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Stephanie Elam, Ella Nilsen, Paradise Afshar and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.