LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A “damaging'' wind event is expected to arrive in the Southland as early as tonight, bringing powerful gusts and increased fire danger to parts of the region, prompting warnings of possible power outages and calls for residents to be prepared to evacuate should blazes erupt.
“A strong and widespread damaging wind event is expected to impact a large portion of Southwest California tonight through Wednesday morning, with the peak of the wind event Tuesday into Tuesday night,'' according to the National Weather Service. “Damaging wind gusts of 60 to 80 mph are expected across portions of Los Angeles and Ventura counties during the peak, as well as the higher elevations of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.''
Forecasters said humidity levels are expected to remain above 15% in most areas, but the fire danger will still be high. A fire weather watch had been issued for the bulk of the Southland, but by midday, forecasters upgraded it to a red flag warning that'll be in effect from 10 p.m. Monday through at least 10 p.m. Tuesday.
“There will be an increased risk of fire ignitions due to downed trees and power lines, along with a threat of rapid fire spread and extreme fire behavior,'' according to the NWS.
The red flag warning will be in effect for the Los Angeles coastal region, Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, Los Angeles County Mountains, Angeles National Forest and the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. A red flag warning will also be in effect during the same hours in inland Orange County, the Santa Ana Mountains and the Cleveland National Forest. Forecasters said foothill areas of the Santa Ana Mountains could see isolated wind gusts of 70 mph.
The Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management issued a statement Monday saying the agency will be on “high alert'' due to the wind and fire conditions. The agency's director, Kevin McGowan, urged residents to be prepared for dangerous conditions.
“Our emergency response officials are world-class and will stand ready to defend lives and property,'' he said. “But, we need collaboration from all residents who live in L.A. County to stay safe as a region. We must all do our part by staying informed and being ready to evacuate at a moment's notice, especially if you live in canyon, mountain or foothill communities.''
He urged residents to have an evacuation plan in place and be prepared by taking steps such as parking vehicles facing the street and on driveways -- not in garages that may not be accessible if electric garage-door openers become inoperable in an outage.
Residents were urged to identify which communication system is used by your local law enforcement agency for your neighborhood, at your workplace and other places that you or family members frequent. They were also urged to watch local newscasts and have a battery-operated radio handy to access news if the power goes out.
The high winds might prompt Southern California Edison to issue Public Safety Power Shutoffs, in which electricity is turned off for customers in wind-prone areas to prevent the possibility of downed power lines sparking wildfires.
A map of the utility's PSPS plans is available at www.sce.com/wildfire/psps.
As of midday Monday, more than 1,600 SCE customers in Los Angeles County already had their power cut under the program, while more than 68,000 others were under consideration for outages, along with 6,500 customers in Orange County.
The strong winds will be accompanied by a significant drop in temperatures, with highs in the upper 60 and 70s in the greater Los Angeles area on Monday, then dropping into the 60s on Tuesday.
That's a marked change from the weekend, when some high temperature records were set in the Southland. Downtown Los Angeles set a new record for Jan. 16 with a high of 88 on Saturday, breaking the old record of 86 set in 1976.
A cold weather alert was issued for the Antelope Valley effective from Monday through Friday, and for the L.A. County mountains on Tuesday. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said below-freezing temperatures were expected in those areas overnight, and warned that “children, the elderly, and people with disabilities or special medical needs are especially vulnerable during cold weather. Extra precaution should be taken to ensure they don't get too cold when they are outside.''
Residents were also warned not to leave pets outside at night.
A high-surf advisory in effect at Los Angeles County beaches through 10 p.m. Tuesday.
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