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‘Dry lightning’ storm delays football games; power outages hit Bakersfield

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High school football games were put on hold or canceled, power outages affected thousands and firefighters were on high alert as a “dry lightning” storm and rain swept through the area Friday night.

Six high school varsity football games scheduled Friday in Kern County were postponed until Saturday, and four were canceled.

Shafter was beaten in its home opener 30-24 by Mira Monte, and Ridgeview led host East 28-0 in a game that was called due to lightning after the first quarter.

And though as of about 8 p.m. PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris could not confirm that two large power outages were caused by the storm, more than 6,000 customers lost power at about 6:30 Friday evening.

In east Bakersfield, an outage affected 3,723 customers from east of Union Avenue to Mt. Vernon Avenue, from Quincy Street to Sumner Street because of a downed wire.

In south Bakersfield, 3,153 PG&E customers south of 31st Street to Pacheco Road from P Street to Cottonwood Road were without power, but as of about 7:45 p.m. that number was down to 1,458 customers.

With the power out, Abigail Hernandez, 27, was thinking about heading to a hotel with relatives for the night.

“It’s really dark. Power’s out. It’s hot,” Hernandez said by phone shortly before 8 p.m. from Locust Ravine, near College Avenue.

Morris said she couldn’t estimate when power would be fully restored. 

A red flag warning was in effect for the Bakersfield area and portions of the Central Coast down to Southern California.

A red flag warning means “conditions are right” for lightning fires, said Jim Dudley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

“What happens is you get the lightning, but you don’t get enough rain,” he said.

Fortunately, he said, a cool front is expected to move through the valley Sunday, bringing temperatures down into the high 80s through Monday.

“The moisture and bad air are going to get swept through,” Dudley said. “It’s kind of like changing the water in your pool.”

High temperatures in the mid-90s are expected Saturday, with chances of thunderstorms limited to the mountains.

Unfortunately, a night’s worth of lightning was enough to spark the wildfires that burned thousands of acres around Kern County about two weeks ago.

Sean Collins, spokesman for the Kern County Fire Department, said conditions Friday night were hot, dry and windy — conditions that when combined with lightning can result in more small fires than usual, so KCFD will send its nearest resources to any fire sparked by lightning first.

Then, if the situation requires extra assistance, he said, “we can very easily upgrade” and devote more resources to a fire.

CalFire in northern California, he said, had moved a few “strike teams” of engines and crews, and was positioning them to respond quickly to a number of counties farther south.

Collins added that KCFD crews responded to a couple of areas in Los Angeles County near Rosamond that threatened to cross into Kern County, but he said they weren’t full alarm fires.

According to a U.S. Forest Service news release, each of five Los Padres National Forest ranger districts will have an extra crew sent over from neighboring forests. Ten "Smokejumpers," or special firefighters trained to parachute into affected areas, will be on standby at the Santa Maria Reload Base.

The base will be staffed through Sunday, the news release said, to service air tankers if they are used in initial fire suppression from the air.

Through it all, the Kern County Fair was going strong.

Though fair-goers got a little sprinkle early in the evening, said fair CEO and General Manager Bill Blair, as of about 9:40 p.m., “everything (was) going great.”

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  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 156,517

  • Deaths: 1,781

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 147,668

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 92.72

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 93.17

Updated: 11/24/2021. Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department

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