Southland residents were enjoying mild temperatures and calm weather Tuesday, but gusting Santa Ana winds and dry conditions are expected to return Wednesday night, prompting forecasters to issue a red flag warning of critical wildfire conditions that will last into Friday.

The warning will take effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday and continue to 6 p.m. Friday in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, Los Angeles County mountains, the Angeles National Forest, the coastal area stretching into downtown Los Angeles, and the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

“Northeast winds will increase starting just after sunrise on Wednesday then peak late Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning,” according to the National Weather Service. “Winds will gradually weaken through Saturday but will remain gusty at times. Peak wind gusts between 30 and 50 mph are expected, with isolated gusts to around 60 mph.”

Forecasters said humidity levels will plummet Wednesday afternoon, falling as low as 2% to 8% by Thursday, creating dry conditions that can dramatically elevate the risk of dangerous wildfires.

“The combination (of) very gusty winds and very low relative humidity over a sufficient period of time will create red flag conditions for most of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, primarily Wednesday through Thanksgiving,” according to the NWS. “Although winds will be weaker on Friday, the very low humidities combined with occasionally gusty northeast winds will continue these critical conditions through Friday afternoon.”

In Orange County, a red flag warning will be in effect during the same hours for inland areas and the Santa Ana Mountains. Forecasters said those areas could see wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph, occasionally reaching 60 mph in mountain canyons. Humidity levels, meanwhile could fall to about 5% on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

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