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Strong winds reach North Bay mountains overnight, no new wildfire activity reported

Although the strongest winds of the week had passed by Thursday morning, North Bay residents should remain prepared for dangerous fire weather conditions to persist through Friday as scorching temperatures and extremely low humidity are forecast for the region.

Temperatures are expected to reach the upper 90s in Sonoma County on Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Humidity levels are predicted to drop to around 10%, and stay there into Friday night.

Meteorologists also forecast winds of 5 mph to 10 mph, much calmer than the 30 mph to 45 mph wind speeds at higher elevations on Wednesday and early Thursday.

“The winds are dropping off, but the humidity is bone dry and the temperatures are going to be very hot,” said Matt Mehly, a meteorologist with the weather service.

Still, the agency is expected to lift its red flag warning, issued early Wednesday signaling elevated wildfire risks in the North Bay, at 11 a.m. Friday.

But due to near-record high temperatures, the weather service on Thursday issued a heat advisory to last through 9 p.m. Friday. There’s a greater chance of heat-related illnesses so meteorologists recommended limiting outdoor activities during the sweltering afternoon.

Sonoma County avoided record-topping temperatures Thursday, though Marin County’s Kentfield tied with its high record for Oct. 15 of 91 degrees set in 2001, said Rick Canepa, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Temperatures in Richmond rose to 93 degrees Thursday, exceeding the previous record for Oct. 15 set in 1961 by one degree.

Santa Rosa’s high of 98 degrees was 2 degrees short of the record for the date, set in 1961, according to Accuweather.

Facing the extreme fire weather conditions, PG&E on Wednesday turned off power to 53,000 customers throughout Northern California, including 6,700 customers in the North Bay, to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires, utility officials said.

The reenergization process for most of the customers impacted by the shut-off, including 1,700 in Sonoma County and more in Lake and Napa counties, was expected to begin somewhere between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday as winds calmed, said Mark Quinlan, the PG&E incident commander overseeing the planned power outages, during a virtual news briefing Thursday afternoon.

The utility planned to restore electricity to nearly all its affected customers, including those in Sonoma County, by 10 p.m. Friday after inspections of power lines and necessary repairs were completed, Quinlan said.

Power was restored early to about 21,000 customers in the South Bay Thursday afternoon and an additional 2,000 in the East Bay were forecast to also have lights turned back on by the end of the day because of tamer-than-predicted weather conditions, Quinlan said. That group was originally forecast to have power turned off until Friday.

Sonoma County’s unincorporated areas bore the brunt of the outages, including sections east of Cloverdale and parts of Asti, Geyserville and the Porter Creek area near Calistoga Road, as well around Kenwood and Glen Ellen.

About 100 customers in the city of Sonoma also were unplugged. View a map of outage areas here.

In Napa County, PG&E shut off electricity to about 5,000 customers. In Lake County, about 80 customers are without power, the utility said.

You can reach Staff Writers Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412 and Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com.

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