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Unrivaled lightning, thunder send firefighters scrambling across Sonoma County

Spectacular thunder and lightning over the North Bay Monday morning sparked 18 small fires in Sonoma County, sending state firefighters scrambling to find them.

Unusual in its bluster and length, the storm put on a several-hour pre-dawn show that rivaled any storm in the memory of many lifelong North Coast residents.

"I have never seen a lightning storm like this, we have never seen one that lasted for hours," said Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman, who awoke to thunder and drove to the Duncan Mills plain to watch.

Sonoma County Lightning Storm


The skies began opening up by nightfall Monday after the storm continued on a path to Nevada, yet fires could still pop up for days to come, said Capt. Amy Head with Cal Fire and Napa County Fire.

Lightning strikes likely left smoldering footprints throughout North Bay timber that could ignite.

"That's what we'll be looking for tomorrow and for the next few days," Head said.

Monday's storm cut a path from Southern California to the Sierra with more than 500 lightning strikes touching down and minimal rain.

The brunt of the storm hit the North Bay with a mighty pre-dawn electrical system that shook houses from about 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., lighting up the sky with streaks of lightning.

"I've never experienced thunder that shook the house like that," said Head, who grew up in Sonoma County.

"I hit the deck and covered my ears," after one particularly close strike, said acting Battalion Chief Mike Elson with Windsor Fire.

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