LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Gusting Santa Ana winds and dry conditions are expected to return to the Southland tonight, prompting forecasters to issue a red flag warning of critical wildfire conditions that will last into Friday.
The warning will take effect at 10 p.m. today and continue to 6 p.m. Friday in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, Los Angeles County mountains, the Angeles National Forest, the coastal area stretching into downtown Los Angeles, and the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.
``Northeast winds will increase starting just after sunrise on Wednesday then peak late Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning,'' according to the National Weather Service.
``Winds will gradually weaken through Saturday but will remain gusty at times. Peak wind gusts between 35 and 55 mph are expected, with isolated gusts to between 60 and 70 mph.''
Wind advisories will be in place from 6 a.m. today until 3 a.m. Thursday in the Los Angeles County Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area and the Santa Clarita Valley. A wind advisory will be in place from 6 a.m. today to 6 p.m. Thursday in the San Fernando Valley, and from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday in the coastal area, including downtown Los Angeles.
Forecasters said humidity levels will plummet this afternoon, falling as low as 2% to 8% by Thursday, creating dry conditions that can dramatically elevate the risk of dangerous wildfires.
``The combination (of) very gusty winds and very low relative humidity over a sufficient period of time will create red flag conditions for most of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, primarily Wednesday through Thanksgiving,'' according to the NWS.
``Although winds will be weaker on Friday, the very low humidities combined with occasionally gusty northeast winds will continue these critical conditions through Friday afternoon.''
In Orange County, a red flag warning will be in effect during the same hours for inland areas and the Santa Ana Mountains. Forecasters said those areas could see wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph, occasionally reaching 60 mph in mountain canyons. Humidity levels, meanwhile could fall to about 5% on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
As is typical during major wind events, Southern California Edison officials warned that the utility could impose Public Safety Power Shutoffs, cutting electricity in particularly wind-prone areas to reduce the risk of wildfires being sparked by wind-damaged electrified power lines.
Residents can visit SCE's website at https://www.sce.com/wildfire/psps to see if their area is under consideration for potential power cuts.