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National Weather Service: North Bay mountains could see damaging winds

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The National Weather Service on Sunday upgraded its wind advisory to a high wind warning for higher elevations, alerting residents across a vast swath of Central and Northern California to the potential for ferocious, damaging winds starting Monday afternoon.

The warning, which takes effect at 4 p.m. Monday and applies to areas at elevations 1,000 feet or higher, cites the potential for winds reaching 60-70 mph at a variety of locations from Big Sur to the North Bay mountains. Winds were already expected to pick up at all elevations Sunday night, leading the National Weather Service to issue a rare winter fire weather watch for large swaths of Central California.

“The wind will be just as strong up in the North Bay as what we’re expecting in Central California,” said Duane Dykema, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “Because there’s been more rain in the North Bay, the fire danger isn’t as high.”

Dykema said the Santa Cruz mountains mark the northernmost area of concern in terms of fire danger, but he urged resident caution due to expected high winds in the North Bay.

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Weather conditions aid firefight but diminish air quality for Sonoma County residents

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Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat
Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat

The buildup of smoky air in North Bay communities since Sunday represented yet another health threat for local residents, but for firefighters, it signaled the persistence of calmer conditions that have allowed crews to gain ground on week-old wildfires.

The dropoff in wind in the hills, however, has led to smoke accumulation in more settled valleys across Sonoma County and the greater Bay Area, posing a threat to children or residents with health risks, especially if they’re outside for a prolonged period or choose to exercise in the open.

Th air quality index rose as high as 152 on Monday, well above the 100 federal health standard for healthy air, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. A Spare the Air alert remains in effect through Wednesday, banning any wood-burning or fires both inside and outdoors.

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