Santa Anas bring ‘most significant fire-weather threat’ in 5 years

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Fire weather watch

(AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Fierce Santa Ana winds gusting at more than 50 miles per hour swept much of Southern California today as humidity levels dipped sharply, drying out already bone-dry vegetation and confronting the region with what the National Weather Service called “the most significant fire-weather threat in the past five years.”

An NWS red flag warning signifying a high risk of wildfires went into effect Thursday night in Ventura County and all of Los Angeles County except for the Antelope Valley and was to remain in force through Sunday evening.

“A strong Santa Ana wind event will develop over the area (Thursday night) through Friday mid-day, then weaken Saturday, afternoon through Sunday, bringing the most significant fire-weather threat in the past five years,” warned an NWS advisory.

At the same time, it said, “relative humidity will fall sharply into the mid teens to single digits Friday and by Saturday, widespread single-digit humidity will extend from the higher elevations to the lower elevations and then persist through Sunday.”

At 8 a.m., the city of Los Angeles issued red flag parking restrictions that will be in effect through 8 a.m. Saturday. More information on the restrictions is available at http://notify.lafd.org/redflag . The restrictions could be extended if needed.

According to Southern California Edison, some power outages have been reported in parts of the Southland, mainly in the Simi Valley area.

“The important thing for people to remember is to call 911 if they see downed power lines,” SCE’s David Song said.

Peak winds — including gusts of up to 80 miles per hour in the Santa Monica mountains — occurred this morning and again Saturday morning, the advisory warned.

In the San Gabriel Mountains, gusts of 52 mph were recorded overnight at Warm Springs and of 60 mph at Whitaker Peak, according to the NWS.

The Santa Anas will begin to die down Saturday night, and onshore winds will develop Sunday, but that will not ease the risks because “chaotic winds are expected” amid continuing low humidity levels and temperatures 5 to 15 degrees higher than normal, according to the advisory.

In the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains, winds of between 30 and 45 mph were expected, accompanied by gusts of 70 mph and even 80 mph, according to an NWS advisory. It said the wind would blow at between 25 and 40 mph with 60-mph gusts along the coast, in Long Beach, metropolitan Los Angeles, the Hollywood Hills, and the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys. A high wind warning — it signifies winds of more than 45 mpg and gusts greater than 60 mph — was scheduled to be in force in all these areas until 3 Saturday afternoon.

In Orange County, a high wind warning will be in force until noon Sunday.

A less serious wind advisory will be in force until 3 p.m. Saturday in the San Gabriel Valley, where the wind will blow at between 20 and 30 mph, gusting to 45 mph and even perhaps 60 mph, forecasters said.

Under sunny skies, highs today were forecast to be 71 on Mount Wilson; 74 in Palmdale and Lancaster; 79 in Avalon and Saugus; 84 in Burbank; 85 in San Gabriel and at LAX; 86 in Pasadena and Woodland Hills; 87 in Newport Beach; 89 in downtown L.A.; 90 in Anaheim; and 93 in Long Beach. A cooling trend is expected Monday.

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