Strong Santa Ana winds battered much of the Southland Monday, combining with low humidity to raise the risk of wildfires while knocking out power to thousands of people and likely contributing to the death of a Tustin woman who was crushed by a falling tree.
A red flag warning denoting a high risk of wildfires will be in effect until 8 p.m. Tuesday across much of the Southland, with forecasters warning of winds generally gusting from 55 to 65 mph in the mountains and foothills and 40 to 50 mph in the valleys and along the coast.
The red flag warning will be in effect in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Angeles National Forest, the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys, and the L.A. coastal zone, which consists of beach cities, metropolitan L.A including the downtown area, and the Hollywood Hills. No warning was in effect in the Antelope Valley.
According to the National Weather Service, winds in some areas will actually decrease slowly through Tuesday, but single-digit humidity levels are expected to continue into Tuesday night.
“Continued dry offshore flow will persist through the remainder of the week, but there appears to be enough humidity recovery at night and minimums mostly in the teens by Wednesday,” according to the NWS. “This will likely allow red flags to expire on time.”
In the meantime, forecasters warned that “if fire ignition occurs, conditions are favorable for extreme fire behavior, which would threaten life and property.”
In Orange County — including mountain areas below 6,000 feet, the Cleveland National Forest and in valley areas — winds of 20-40 mph with 60 mph gusts are expected, gusting to 80 mph in some areas amid 5-10 percent humidity. The red flag warning in Orange County will last until 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior,” warned the NWS station in San Diego, which monitors Orange County conditions.
High wind warnings denoting winds or gusts of at least 58 mph will be in effect wherever red flag warnings have been issued, including in Ventura County and points north, and temperatures will be in the mid 80s.
“Winds this strong may down trees and power lines, causing property damage or power outages. Cross winds can make driving difficult, especially for drivers of high profile vehicles and vehicles towing trailers,” warned an NWS statement.
The gusting winds appeared to have claimed a life in Tustin, where a tree fell on a car in the 14000 block of Red Hill Avenue around 9:15 a.m. The woman inside the car was pronounced dead at the scene.
In Irvine, a large tree collapsed onto a car on Barranca Parkway near Jeffrey Road between 7:30 and 8 a.m., said Kim Mohr of the Irvine Police Department. The motorist escaped injury, she added.
Another tree fell on a vehicle and fire hydrant on a side street near Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard Monday morning, Mohr said. Wind also pushed another tree into a house on Blue Lake South in the Woodbridge neighborhood, but no one was injured.
Meanwhile, more than 33,000 Southern California Edison customers around Los Angeles County were without power due to the gusting winds. More than 15,000 SCE customers in Orange County had no power as of early afternoon, according to the utility.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported about 500 customers without power.
Strong wind gusts were recorded in L.A. County beginning shortly after 1 a.m. The strongest were in the San Gabriel Mountains, including 54 mph at Warm Springs and 49 mph in Chilao, but strong gusts were recorded elsewhere as well: 43 mph in Chatsworth, 41 mph in Saugus, 38 mph in Glendale, 36 mph in Santa Clarita and 35 mph in Malibu.
Strong winds were also recorded in Orange County overnight, both in the mountains and at low elevations, including 68 mph in Fremont Canyon, 58 mph in Mission Viejo, 53 in Portola Hills, 52 mph in Tustin, 37 mph in Lake Forest, and 30 mph in Yorba Linda and at John Wayne Airport, 26 mph in Costa mesa and 25 mph in Garden Grove and Santa Ana, according to the NWS.
The NWS forecast sunny skies Monday and highs of 64 degrees on Mount Wilson; 69 in Palmdale; 70 in Lancaster; 79 in Saugus; 81 in Avalon and San Gabriel; 83 in Pasadena and Woodland Hills; 85 in Burbank; and 87 in Downtown L.A., Long Beach and at LAX. Temperatures will reach the low 90s in Woodland Hills starting Tuesday but will slip to the low 80s and high 70s in other L.A. County communities.
The NWS issued a forecast of windy for Orange County Monday, along with highs of 77 in San Clemente; 80 in Yorba Linda; 81 in Laguna Beach, Anaheim, Irvine and Mission Viejo; 82 in Newport Beach; and 83 in Fullerton. Orange County temperatures will stay at roughly the same level for several days.