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San Francisco Bay Area Dodges Major Dry Lightning Threat; Red Flag Warning Cancelled

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A plume of unstable air streamed into Northern California from the monsoonal storms in Arizona early Monday, triggering dozens of lightning strikes in the tinder-dry forests in the Sierra but was bypassing the San Francisco Bay Area.

The National Weather Service cancelled a Red Flag Warning for the Bay Area shortly after 5 a.m. But thunderstorms were still popping up in the North Bay.

"Much of the monsoonal moisture tracked off shore overnight and did not result in thunderstorm activity for the Bay Area/Central Coast," the weather service said in its alert. "Dynamics not longer look favorable this morning so we have cancelled the warning."

The announcement triggered a sigh of relief from local firefighters who had been on alert over the weekend, ready to quickly respond to any new blazes. Fresh in their minds of the havoc dry lightning strikes caused in 2020.

Over a four-day period, more than 12,000 lightning strikes were recorded in Northern California. Those lightning strikes sparked up to 585 wildfires, burning more than two million acres.

Wildfires burned thousands of homes, claimed dozens of lives and charred woodlands, forests and wine country vineyards, leaving an ugly scare visible from space.

This year a lack of rainfall over the last nine months has led to excessive or extreme drought conditions. There simply is no moisture in the hills.

But the news was not as encouraging for weary fire crews battling the Tamarack and Dixie fires to the east. Satellite video was showing dozens of lightning strikes in the tinder-day forestland in the Sierra.

On Sunday, a determined band of firefighters battled the advancing flames of the raging Tamarack Fire, keeping the blaze from entering the heart of the evacuated Sierra community of Markleeville.

As of Sunday evening, the growth of the fire had slowed somewhat. A 7 p.m. update from authorities put the fire at 23,078 acres in size.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, evacuations were still in place Sunday evening for Markleeville, Grover's Hot Springs Park and Campground, Shay Creek, Markleeville Village, the Poor Boy Road area, Carson River Resort, Sierra Pines, Upper and Lower Manzanita, Crystal Springs, Diamond Valley Road, Hung A Le Ti, Alpine Village and Woodfords.

The fire began as a small smoldering blaze ignited by lightning over the July Fourth holiday. While U.S Forest Service officials were monitoring it, the fire roared to life on Friday, quickly growing from 500 acres to more than 18,000 acres over the next 36 hours.

There was zero containment, but the rapidly growing number of firefighters brought in to battle the flames appeared to have save much of Markleeville after the fire nearly encircled the community on Saturday. The fire was advancing to the north away from the small mountain community.

The blaze initially overwhelmed the 50 firefighters who were monitoring the fire. By Sunday morning, the of number of firefighters had swelled to over 120.

On Sunday, the advancing flames forced federal park officials to shut down the Pacific Crest Trail between California State Route 88 and California State Route 4 (Ebbetts Pass).

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