Santa Ana winds returned to the Southland Wednesday, combining with low humidity levels to create dangerous fire conditions that are expected to continue into Thursday, while also prompting precautionary power cuts for thousands of residents.
A red flag warning of severe wildfire threat took effect at 8 a.m. for the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles County Mountains, the Angeles National Forest, the coastal region stretching into downtown Los Angeles and the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. The warning will remain in place until noon Thursday.
“Gusty Santa Ana winds are expected to increase rapidly across Los Angeles and Ventura counties earlier Wednesday morning, then peak in strength Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday night when wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph are expected across wind-favored areas,” according to the National Weather Service. “Humidity levels are expected to fall to around 15% by mid-morning Wednesday in downslope areas, with widespread drying down to 3 to 10% Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning.”
A wind advisory was issued through noon Thursday for most of Los Angeles County.
According to forecasters, the red flag warning means there is a potential for rapid fire spread should a blaze erupt, along with “extreme fire behavior.”
“This is the time to get set with assembling your emergency supply kit and knowing your evacuation route,” according to the NWS.
The bulk of Orange County will also be under a red flag warning during the same hours, with wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph anticipated in Santa Ana Mountain canyons, and humidity levels of 7 to 12%.
Whenever high winds are forecast, Southern California Edison customers in affected areas could potentially have their power temporarily turned off as part of an effort to prevent energized electrical lines damaged by gusts that could possibly spark wildfires.
Customers can check to see if they are facing a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff by visiting the utility’s website at www.sce.com/psps.
As of late Wednesday morning, 11,437 SCE customers in Los Angeles County had their power turned off under the PSPS program. Another 20,342 Los Angeles County customers were under consideration for power shutoffs, along with 9,641 in Orange County.
Despite the fire risk, temperatures will remain on the mild side Wednesday and Thursday, with highs in the 60s and 70s.
A cold weather alert was issued for the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys, where overnight temperatures were expected to drop below the freezing level. The alert was in effect Wednesday in the Santa Clarita Valley and through Saturday in the Antelope Valley.
“Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during cold weather. Extra precaution should be taken to ensure they don’t get too cold when they are outside,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County health officer. “There are places where people can go to stay warm, such as shelters or other public facilities. We also want to remind people not to use stoves, barbeques or ovens to heat their homes due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Officials also cautioned people in those areas not to leave pets outside at night.