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Dry Weather Sparks Deadly Fire In Chile

A series of fires in Valparaiso, Chile, have destroyed over 500 homes and forced over 11,000 people to evacuate.

The fire began in a forested area just above hillside housing outside of the city. With most of these homes not having running water, this fire spread rapidly.

The weather with this fire was only hindering the efforts to try and stop them as winds were gusting to nearly 20 mph. Dry weather over the past several months have also lead to prime conditions for the fires to spread rapidly. In nearby Santiago, Chile, only 0.12 of an inch (3.1 mm) of rain has fallen since the beginning of September. This is normally their dry time of the year as 2.90 inches (73.7 mm) of rain falls in the same time period.

Winds off the water are very common in Valparaiso. A similar location to this is around Los Angeles, California, with the mountains climbing rapidly to the east of the city and some low clouds and fog come in over the year, but little in the way of rain typically falls.

The worst fire in the history of the city occurred in 1953, when 50 people were killed and every structure was destroyed on several of the city's hills, according to the Associated Press.

The fires were so large in scale that over 6 hilltops have seen fires destroy homes and even the Chile parliament building is seeing the fire approach. Most of the damage was done Saturday night as the fires were pushed inland by the winds off the Pacific Ocean.

Photo of Valparaiso, Chile, courtesy of Thinkstock

Unfortunately, the dry weather will continue with little relief as sunshine will prevail most days after just some low clouds in the morning. The storm track remains off to the south, and to make matters worse, the strong winds will continue to be around through the early part of the week. Winds could gust to over 20 mph through Tuesday as a storm moves onshore off to the south.

As we look ahead, a developing El Nino could help the region as the warmer waters off the coastline would bring some increased shower and thunderstorm activity during the rainy season.

Story by Meteorologist Alan Reppert