Los Angeles could see power outages as Santa Ana winds hit Southern California – Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles could see power outages as Santa Ana winds hit Southern California - Los Angeles Times
National Weather Service says Santa Ana winds could trigger wildfires in multiple areas
Above: This undated image shows a map of communities in San Diego County that are affected by potential SDG&E outages.

San Diego Gas & Electric announced this week that the utility may shut off power in certain parts of San Diego County due to forecasted weather conditions that could pose a danger to power lines and increase the risk of wildfires.

San Diego Gas & Electric announced this week that the utility may shut off power in certain parts of San Diego County due to forecasted weather conditions that could pose a danger to power lines and increase the risk of wildfires.

Map: Tracking Wildfires in California

The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued a red flag warning because of low humidity conditions and forecasts of gusty winds.

SDG&Es announcement comes as millions of people in Northern and Central California face power outages as another utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, braces for what is called an unprecedented wildfire danger, especially in the East County.

“The red flag warning stays into effect until Friday evening at 6 p.m.,” SDG&E meteorologist Brian DAgostino said. “After that well have to do an assessment if we do experience any power outages, so wed certainly like to be prepared into the day Saturday.”

SD&G said cutting power is a tool of last resort. The utility has been cutting power to mitigate wildfire risks since 2013. The most recent outage was late last year.

“I dont think theyre making a mistake as it related to proactive measures to mitigate the prospect of fires,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. “I think thats the right decision and I think that is demonstrable — especially down here — because that is a best practice.”

SDG&E said it does not know how many people may be affected by the power outage but 30,000 have been notified.

Gusts of 35 to 45 mph were forecast to sweep across the region, including the Sierra Nevada foothills where a fire last year blamed on PG&E transmission lines killed 85 people and virtually incinerated the town of Paradise.

Strong winds are coming to Southern California and with them comes an extreme wildfire risk for much of the region.

Cal Fire is increasing staffing levels as the potential for a large, destructive fire is increasing with the incoming weather system and the National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for later this week.

“You will definitely notice drier air moving in, depending on where you are,” said Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist with the NWS in Los Angeles. “Any area that tends to be more humid, you will notice that drying out immediately.”

Come Thursday morning, Oct. 10, winds will be picking up, the red-flag warning begins in the early morning hours and continues through Friday evening, although officials say the region could get blustery weather Wednesday night.

The hot, dry Santa Ana winds send temperatures soaring and humidity levels dropping – the recipe for destructive wildfires. NWS meteorologists said they also expect the gusty conditions to bring warmer temperatures.

Cal Fire officials said this “will likely be the strongest offshore wind event so far this season.”

Strong winds have also been a concern for utility companies, whose equipment can be damaged or produce sparks in gusty conditions. Utilities across the state warned they could shut off power to hundreds of thousands in the coming days if winds start to threaten power lines.

By Tuesday afternoon, Pacific Gas & Electric said it plans to shut off power to nearly 800,000 across counties in the Bay Area and Northern California.

Southern California Edison also said Tuesday just over 106,000 customers could see their power shut off. Those included customers in L.A., Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties, mostly in foothill or mountain areas.

The Santa Ana winds moving in bring in hot dry winds from mountain areas into low lying coastal plains, as cool, wet air gets sucked out over the ocean.

The effect of Santa Ana winds can be dramatic. Residents might feel humidity levels dropping from normal levels, around 50 percent, to less than 10 percent in as little as an hour, Phillips said.

And powerful wind gusts also can be problematic, NWS said. In LA County, it’s possible that there will be gusts as strong as 70 mph on Thursday, according to NWS. In Orange County and the Inland Empire, strong gusts will likely be near 50 mph.

Thom Porter, Cal Fire’s director, said the increased staffing levels are an effort to be prepared as October and November has been a time when fire activity increases. Last year, the Woolsey fire and the deadly Camp fire — two of the most destructive fires in state history — started on the same day in November.

Wildfires move more quickly when grasses and brush have had months to dry out, providing plenty of fuel, Porter said in a statement on Tuesday. Santa Ana winds will make those conditions worse.

“Wind driven fires move fast, and residents need to be ready to evacuate at a moments notice in the event of a wildfire, he said in the statement.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the number of SCE customers that could be impacted by outages this week.

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Posted in Santa Ana