Continued Blustery Winds, Low Humidity Prompts Extended Red Flag Warning

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - With Santa Ana winds continuing to blast the Southland, a red flag warning of critical fire danger was extended into the weekend today for much of the region, with forecasters warning of continued dry weather exacerbating conditions in the already fire-plagued area.

The red flag warning will be in effect until 6 p.m. Saturday in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, Los Angeles County mountains, Angeles National Forest, the Los Angeles coastal area stretching to downtown, and the Santa Clarita, San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys. Most of Ventura County is also covered by the warning.

“Another surge of gusty Santa Ana winds is occurring this morning, with gusts between 35 and 50 mph across wind-prone coastal and valley areas of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and 50 to 60 mph across the mountains,” according to the National Weather Service. “These gusty winds combined with widespread single-digit humidities -- as low as 1% -- and warmer temperatures will continue to bring very dangerous fire weather conditions today (Friday).”

Forecasters noted that the Santa Ana winds that began battering the region Thursday will begin diminishing Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, wind gusts are expected to drop to between 20 and 30 mph in the mountains and valleys, then shift to an onshore direction by Saturday afternoon.

“With dry fuel conditions established, very critical fire weather conditions are expected with the potential for very rapid fire spread, long range spotting and extreme fire behavior with existing fires and any new fire ignitions,” according to the NWS.

The red flag warning, which initially took effect at 8 a.m. Thursday, had originally been expected to expire at 6 p.m. Friday.

Forecasters said mountain areas should expect northeast winds of 25 to 40 mph Friday, with gusts of 50 to 60 mph, but those will drop to about 15 to 25 mph, with gusts to 40 mph, by mid-afternoon and continuing into Saturday morning. Those speeds will drop off significantly by late Saturday afternoon, according to the NWS. Humidity levels, however, will hover between 2 and 8%.

The San Fernando Valley -- where the Saddleridge Fire tore through neighborhoods Thursday night and into Friday -- is expected to see winds of 15 to 30 mph Friday, with gusts up to 45 mph. Winds will also diminish in that area Friday afternoon, dropping to 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph, according to the NWS. Winds will continue dropping Friday night and into Saturday morning, but humidity levels will remain low, ranging from 1 to 6% Friday and 3 to 8% Saturday.

The gusting wind conditions prompted Southern California Edison to cut power to about 21,000 customers in Los Angeles, Riverside, Kern, Ventura and San Bernardino counties. The precautionary power cuts are aimed at de- energizing power lines that could be damaged in high winds and spark wildfires.

In Los Angeles County, SCE cut power to 4,557 customers in the areas of Palmdale, Agua Dulce, Acton, Boiling Point, White Heather, Fern Ann Falls, Twin Lakes, Deer Lake Highlands, Chatsworth Lake Manor and Santa Susana Knolls.

According to Edison, more than 223,000 customers across its service area are under consideration for precautionary power cuts.

Photo: Getty Images

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