Gusting Santa Ana winds battered parts of the Southland again Thursday, combining with dry conditions that dramatically raised the risk of wildfires, prompting precautionary power cuts that affected thousands of people on the Thanksgiving holiday.
A red flag warning of critical fire danger took effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday and will 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.
“The Santa Ana wind event will remain strong through this (Thursday) afternoon with gusts generally between 40 and 60 mph,” according to the National Weather Service. “Gusts will decrease to 30 to 50 mph tonight (Thursday), then decrease further to 20 to 40 mph on Friday, before decreasing to 15 to 30 mph by Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, very low humidities will change little through Sunday, with daily minimums of 2 to 10 percent common and poor overnight recoveries especially in the valleys and mountains.”
Forecasters said wind speeds were beginning to diminish in some levels, and there was a chance the red flag warnings would be lifted by Friday morning in the coastal area and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. But there was also a chance the warnings could be extended into Saturday or Sunday in the Santa Clarita Valley.
By early afternoon Thursday, a wind advisory that had been in place was canceled for Catalina Island and the San Fernando Valley, with wind speeds dropping below advisory levels.
Wind advisories were expected to remain in place until 6 a.m. Friday for the Los Angeles County mountains, Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, the Los Angeles coastal area and the Santa Clarita Valley. The advisory will continue until noon Friday in the San Fernando Valley.
As is typical during major wind events, Southern California Edison warned that the utility could impose Public Safety Power Shutoffs, cutting electricity in particularly wind-prone areas to reduce the risk of wildfires being sparked by wind-damaged electrified power lines.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 15,500 SCE customers had their power cut off in Los Angeles County as a precautionary measure, along with 4,100 in Orange County. The outages were primarily concentrated in mountain areas.
The power cutoffs came at a particularly inconvenient time for families trying to prepare Thanksgiving dinners.
Residents can visit SCE’s website at www.sce.com/wildfire/psps to see if their area is under consideration for potential power cuts.
In Orange County, a red flag warning will be in effect until 6 p.m. Friday for inland areas. Forecasters said those areas could see gusts of 40 to 50 mph, occasionally reaching 60 mph in mountain canyons. Humidity levels, meanwhile could fall to about 5%, according to the National Weather Service.
The Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management was on high alert for the wind event, and fire crews were deployed across the region to quickly respond to wildfires..
“These strong Santa Ana wind events require our whole community to be ready, including our world class emergency services and emergency management organizations which will be on high alert starting today,” OEM Director Kevin McGowan said.
“Emergency response officials throughout Los Angeles County will stand ready to defend lives and property,” McGowan said. “But, we also need collaboration from our whole community to stay safe as a region. You can do your part by staying informed and being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice, especially if you live in canyon, mountain or foothill communities.”
Residents were urged to keep the following emergency preparedness tips in mind:
— Keep a mobile phone and other devices charged with the ringer on so you can receive and hear emergency alerts throughout the night. Have working flashlights for all family members ready and within reach.
— Prepare your family, pets and home for the possibility of having to evacuate. Park your vehicle facing the street so you don’t have to back out, and in the driveway, to avoid being stuck behind an electricity operated garage door.
— Sign up for emergency notification systems. Identify which system is used by your local law enforcement agency for your neighborhood, at your workplace and other places that you or family members frequent. Watch local newscasts and have a battery-operated radio handy so that you can access news if the power goes out.
For more preparedness tips, visit ready.lacounty.gov, follow @ReadyLACounty or dial 211 to request resources and information.