A fire danger sign with the iconic” Smokey the Bear.” Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control

Gusting Santa Ana winds and dry conditions are expected throughout the Southland Thursday, prompting forecasters to issue a red flag warning of critical wildfire conditions, with a reminder for residents in some areas to be ready to evacuate if necessary.

The warning took effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday and will continue to 6 p.m. Thursday 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,” the National Weather Service said.

“Winds will gradually weaken through Saturday but will remain gusty at times. Peak wind gusts between 35 and 55 mph are expected, with isolated gusts to between 60 and 70 mph.”

High wind advisories are in place until 3 p.m. Thursday in the Los Angeles County Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area and the Santa Clarita Valley, in the San Fernando Valley, and in the San Gabriel Valley and the coastal area, including downtown Los Angeles.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts at 77 mph in Deer Creek Canyon at 1:50 a.m., at 76 mph at Boney Mountain, 73 mph in Escondido Canyon, 71 mph in Malibu Hills and 67 mph in Burbank.

Forecasters said humidity levels will plummet Thursday afternoon, falling as low as 5%, 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 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% Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management will be on high alert, officials said Wednesday.

“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.

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.

Residents can visit SCE’s website at www.sce.com/wildfire/psps to see if their area is under consideration for potential power cuts.

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