More Santa Ana winds will bring extreme wildfire risk to Southern California this weekend

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More Santa Ana winds will bring extreme wildfire risk to Southern California this weekend
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Another Santa Ana wind is expected to batter Los Angeles and Ventura counties Friday night through Saturday and, combined with low relative humidity, could pose an extreme wildfire hazard to the area.

Santa Anas, easterly winds that develop due to high pressure over the Great Basin, such as the Nevada and Utah region, generally come from the northeast and pass over the mountain slopes in the Santa Anas region. Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service.

A severe wind warning was issued by the Weather Service from 10 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday for the mountains in LA County, where winds are expected to reach 35 to 45 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph. Winds have the potential to bring down large objects, such as power lines and trees, and trigger power outages. The event is expected to peak Saturday morning, with strong winds persisting through Sunday.

Winds are forecast to reach 30-40 mph, with gusts of up to 60 mph in the Santa Clarita Valley, while the San Fernando Valley and eastern valleys of Ventura County could see wind speeds in the range of 20 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 55 mph.

High winds will mark Santa Ana’s second occurrence this week, after gusts overturned semi-trucks, damaged electrical equipment and started a fire at a Fontana pallet yard on Wednesday.

Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet said wind speeds over the weekend will be about 5 to 10 mph lower than Wednesday’s event.

“It will be strong enough,” he said. “Just not as strong as Wednesday was.”

A red flag warning is in effect from 1 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday for the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties and the valleys of Santa Clarita, San Fernando and Ventura. Humidity levels are expected to hover between 12% and 20% starting Saturday morning, with levels as low as 8% to 15% in the valleys of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Southern California Edison also warned of the potential for the utility to resort to power outages for approximately 16,500 residents in LA and Ventura counties Friday night through Saturday due to high fire risk during the wind event. On Friday afternoon, no customers were without power due to planned outages.

Despite last week’s record rainstorm, fuel moisture is still low due to the multi-year drought in California, according to Sweet.

“Usually when we’re talking about a single storm interrupting a fairly long-term drought condition, that rainfall will only provide temporary relief,” he said. “We now had a strong event in Santa Ana on Wednesday. The fuels are starting to dry out again and the rapid spread of forest fires is causing concern given the current moisture in the fuels.

Sweet recommended families review their escape plans and prepare for a wildfire. He also warned residents to stay away from ignition sources and to notify firefighters if they see smoke rising or a hillside fire.

California Daily Newspapers

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