Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A burned truck at property in Last Chance, California, this month. Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

The National Weather Service issued a "Red Flag" alert for much of Northern California Sunday through Monday, warning that damaging winds and low humidity will create "extreme fire weather conditions."

Why it matters: Authorities fear the expected weather conditions will bring more devastating fires to the state, which is already experiencing a record fire year, with more than 8,600 fires burning over 4.1 million acres and killing at least 31 people, per Cal Fire.

The state of play: The National Weather Service in Sacramento warned in a message on Saturday that the forecasted wind event is expected to be "the strongest" of the year so far.

  • The NWS said it expects winds to range from 20-30 mph, with gusts of up to 70 mph.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced late Friday that it has notified some 466,000 customers across 38 counties that it will proactively turn off power early Sunday morning due to the expected conditions.
  • "Extremely dry, windy conditions with high gusts pose an increased risk for damage to the electric system that has the potential to ignite fires in areas with critically dry vegetation," PG&E said, adding that it work quickly to restore power as conditions improve.
  • “Initial forecasts indicate this could be our largest [Public Safety Power Shutoff] event this year so far," said Michael Lewis, PG&E’s interim president in a statement.
  • Cal Fire, meanwhile, said it has increased staffing in anticipation for the critical weather event. More than 5,300 firefighters are already working towards full containment on 21 wildfires across California, 12 of which remain major incidents, it added.

The big picture: The western part of the U.S. has experienced a particularly brutal wildfire year.

  • Per the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 46,681 fires have burned over 8.6 million acres across the U.S. About 44,000 fires had charred nearly 4.5 million acres at this time last year.
  • Firefighters are fighting massive blazes in Colorado, with unprecedented weather conditions contributing to the fires' spread. Three of the four biggest fires in the state's history — Cameron Peak, Pine Gulch and East Troublesome — have occurred in 2020 alone.

The bottom line: "Extreme caution should be taken to prevent new fire starts. Practice fire weather," NWS-Sacramento told Northern California residents.

Go deeper

Deadly storm Zeta pummels Alabama after making landfall in Louisiana

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people and caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose power after making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday.

Details: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama early on Thursday, but it was still pummeling parts of the state and the Florida Panhandle with heavy winds and rains, per the National Hurricane Center.

Biden transition names first Cabinet nominees

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday unveiled his nominations for top national security positions in his administration, tapping former secretary of state John Kerry as his climate czar and former deputy national security adviser Avril Haines as director of national intelligence.

Why it matters: Haines, if confirmed, would make history as the first woman to oversee the U.S. intelligence community. Biden also plans to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas to become the first Latino secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

New deals in the COVID economy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 is the macro horror of our lifetimes, and has destroyed or severely damaged countless businesses. But, like with most horribles, it also has created some opportunities.

Driving the news: Merck this morning announced an agreement to buy OncoImmune, a Maryland-based biotech that showed promising late-stage clinical results for a therapy that treats severe and critical coronavirus cases.