LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Strong, gusty Santa Ana winds will buffet the Southland today and combine with low humidity levels to create an elevated risk of wildfire in mountain, forest and valley areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, forecasters said.
``Gusty offshore flow and dry conditions will bring elevated fire weather concerns through Thursday,'' warned a National Weather Service statement, asserting that today will be ``the period of most concern'' because of strong winds, ``especially for the valley and mountain areas of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.''
The Weather Service issued a red flag warning signifying a high risk of wildfire. It will be in force from 4 a.m. until 6 p.m. in the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and the forests that stretch over them -- L.A. County's Angeles National Forest and the adjoining Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County -- as well as valley areas in the two counties, including the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys in L.A. County, and the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational area.
Northeast winds of between 15 and 30 miles per hour are forecast in the red flag zone, along with humidity levels of between 8 and 15 percent.
``If fire ignition occurs, conditions are favorable for extreme fire behavior which would threaten life and property. Use extra caution with potential fire sources,'' urged an NWS statement.
Also in effect -- until 2 p.m. -- will be a wind advisory denoting winds or gusts reaching 35 mph in all the areas covered by the red flag warning.
``Gusty Santa Ana winds are expected across portions of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties today,'' the NWS said in a statement. ``Locally gusty winds will also reach the coastal areas, particularly the Ventura coastal plain and from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills.''
It added that ``gusty winds will make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles.''
Temperatures, meanwhile, will stay above normal. The NWS forecast sunny skies in L.A. County today, along with highs of 71 degrees in Lancaster and on Mount Wilson; 72 in Palmdale; 74 in Avalon; 79 in Saugus and at LAX; 81 in San Gabriel; 82 in Burbank, Long Beach and Downtown L.A.; 83 in Pasadena; and 85 in Woodland Hills. Thursday's temperatures will be a few degrees higher, but highs will slip Friday and continue doing so for a number of days.
Sunny skies were also forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 69 in Newport Beach; 70 in San Clemente; 71 in Laguna Beach; 83 in Yorba Linda; and 84 in Fullerton, Anaheim, Irvine and Mission Viejo. Thursday's highs in Orange County will be the same as today's in several communities or a degree different in either direction.