Fire up: Windy, getting windier through Friday

Rancho Santa Fe Fire Department gets ready/dweissmann

Look around and feel the wind. It’s a blowing, and along with it, raising local fire risk to what are called “extreme” levels — a first — by state fire officials.

Strong Santa Ana winds are expected again in San Diego County beginning late Tuesday night, raising the threat of wildfires through Thursday evening.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning that will be in effect from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Thursday for in county mountains and valleys.

The conditions — featuring winds out of the east and northeast at 25-35 mph, with gusts reaching 55 mph in the valleys and 75 mph near mountain ridge tops could be the strongest of the season so far, forecasters said.

“This has the potential to be the worst Santa Ana of the season,” said Bruno Rodriquez, a weather service forecaster. “The risk of wildfires is extremely critical. The conditions will be conducive for the very rapid growth of fires. They would be erratic and difficult to control.”

San Diego Gas & Electric notified nearly 33,000 customers across inland San Diego County and southern Orange County on Monday afternoon that they might experience public safety power outages during the wind storm to minimize the chance that power lines will spark wildfires.

The weather service says that the winds will begin blowing through San Diego County’s mountains and valleys late Tuesday night and progressively grow stronger, peaking on Wednesday morning. Winds will gust 50 mph to 55 mph in places like Ramona and Alpine, and 30 mph to 40 mph in areas like Poway, Valley Center and Escondido.

Humidity levels could drop as low as 5% on Wednesday with poor overnight recovery expected through Friday.

Wind speeds will increase around 9 p.m. Tuesday and continue increasing through Wednesday morning, NWS meteorologist Miguel Miller said. The winds will then decrease slightly Wednesday night through Thursday morning and gradually diminish through Thursday afternoon.

Any fires erupting over the period would tend to spread rapidly and be difficult to extinguish, the NWS warned.

A high wind watch will also be in effect this evening through Thursday afternoon in the county mountains and valleys. Officials warned that damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines, while travel will be especially difficult for high-profile vehicles.

High temperatures Tuesday could reach 73 degrees near the coast and inland, 73 in the western valleys, 67 in the mountains and 83 in the deserts.

San Diego Gas & Electric officials said the utility is considering precautionary power shutoffs this week. The shutoffs would be implemented to de-energize power lines in danger of being damaged or downed by strong winds, potentially sparking wildfires.

As of 2:50 p.m. Monday, nearly 33,000 customers faced potential outages, according to the utility.

Areas that could be affected by the precautionary power shutoffs include Alpine, Boulevard, Campo, Descanso, Dulzura, portions of El Cajon, portions of Encinitas, portions of Escondido, Jacumba, portions of Jamul, Julian, portions of Lakeside, Mount Laguna, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Pine Valley, Potrero, Poway, Ramona, Ranchita, portions of Rancho Santa Fe, portions of San Clemente, portions of San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ysabel, portions of Valley Center and Warner Springs.

If power is shut off for an extended period of time, SDG&E may open community resource centers where residents can get water and snacks, charge their phones and get up-to-date information about the outages.

A full list of the center locations can be found here.

Lake Hodges fire/dweissmann

More than 25 million people in California are under red flag warnings as firefighters continue to battle blazes throughout the state.

The warnings, which are issued when strong winds, warm temperatures and low humidity combine to increase the risk of fire danger, come as 10 active wildfires, including the Kincade Fire, Tick Fire and Getty Fire, have caused thousands of evacuations and power outages.

Southern California could see hurricane-force winds Tuesday, with gusts between 50 to 70 mph, according to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

The warning area includes the cities of Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

As red flag warnings and high winds continue to plague the state, utility companies are working to complete public safety power shutoffs (PSPS). PG&E is moving forward with a planned outage for 596,000 customers in 29 counties.

Residents in many areas just had their power restored following severe winds and concerns for fire hazards over the weekend. In Southern California, 205,000 customers in seven counties are under consideration for possible PSPS, Southern California Edison announced.

Community Resource Centers are open during the shutoffs in Northern California to provide customers with a place to charge their phones, use restrooms and sit in air conditioning, a tweet from PG&E said.

Where the 2008 Witch Creek Fire ended, Del Dios/dweissmann


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