More Santa Ana winds bring extreme wildfire risk to Southern California this weekend

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Another wind event in Santa Ana is expected to hit Los Angeles and Ventura counties from Friday night through Saturday, and when combined with low relative humidity, it could pose extreme wildfire risk to the region.

Santa Anas, easterly winds that develop due to high pressure over the Great Basin, such as the Nevada and Utah area, usually come from the northeast and head over the mountainsides into the Los Angeles area, according to the National Weather Service.

The Weather Service has issued a high wind warning from 10 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday for the mountains of LA County, where winds are expected to reach 35 to 45 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph. The wind can knock over large objects, such as power lines and trees, and cause power outages. The event is expected to peak Saturday morning, with strong winds continuing into Sunday.

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Winds are expected to reach 30 to 40 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph in the Santa Clarita Valley, while the San Fernando Valley and the eastern valleys of Ventura County could see winds in the 20 to 35 mph range, with gusts up to 55 mph .

The high winds mark the second Santa Ana event this week after gusts toppled semi trucks, damaged electrical equipment and started a fire at a Fontana pallet storage facility on Wednesday.

Meteorologist David Sweet of the Weather Service said wind speeds over the weekend will be about 5 to 10 mph less than Wednesday’s event.

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“It’ll be pretty strong,” he said. “Just not as strong as Wednesday.”

A red flag warning is in effect from 1 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday for the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura County and the valleys of Santa Clarita, San Fernando and Ventura. Humidity is expected to hover in the 12% to 20% range as of early Saturday, with levels as low as 8% to 15% in the Los Angeles and Ventura County valleys.

Southern California Edison also warned of the possibility of the utility resorting to power outages for about 16,500 residents in LA and Ventura counties Friday night through Saturday due to increased fire risk during the wind event. On Friday afternoon, no customers were without power due to planned closures.

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Despite last week’s record-breaking rainfall, fuel moisture is still low due to California’s multi-year drought, Sweet said.

“Usually when we’re talking about just one storm interrupting a fairly prolonged drought, that rainfall will only provide temporary relief,” he said. “We now had a strong Santa Ana event on Wednesday. The fuels are starting to dry out again and there is some concern about the rapid spread of wildfires given the current moisture content of the fuel.”

Sweet advised families to review their evacuation plans and prepare in case of a wildfire. He also warned residents to stay away from sources of ignition and to alert firefighters if they see smoke rising or a fire on a hillside.

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