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High surf advisory and wind watch issued for North Bay, wildfire risk to increase

The National Weather Service has issued a high surf advisory for the Sonoma Coast and a high wind watch for the North Bay hills, where strong gusts could elevate the risk of wildfires.

The high surf advisory lasts from 11 a.m. Friday until 7 p.m. Saturday. The high wind watch is set to go into effect late Sunday night through Monday.

Even though peak fire season has passed, expected dry, gusty winds of up to 35 mph in the hills and exceeding 50 mph at elevations above 1,000 feet still have the potential to spark new wildfires, said weather service meteorologist Anna Schneider.

But recent rains have wetted dried-out vegetation enough to lessen the chance of fast-spreading blazes like the ones that devastated the county last summer and fall. That means it’s unlikely the weather service will issue a red flag warning or fire weather watch for this weekend, Schneider said.

“The fuels are still fairly moist, so at this time we’re not anticipating issuing (a fire alert),” she said.

As for the high surf advisory, the weather service warns of large breaking waves of up to 20 feet, as well as sneaker waves and rip currents.

Officials strongly urge people to remain back from the ocean while the advisory is in effect. This month, four people have died after being swept away by dangerous surf along the Sonoma Coast.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

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