Powerful Santa Ana winds are expected to howl across the Southland on Thanksgiving, delivering the potential for critical fire weather conditions and power shutoffs just as people gather for their holiday meals.
A red flag warning indicating fire weather conditions will be in effect from 10 a.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Friday across large portions of Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties as well as the Inland Empire, the National Weather Service said. Isolated wind gusts of 60 mph are possible.
“Unfortunately, another good Santa Ana wind setup is going to start tomorrow,” Matt Moreland, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego, said Tuesday, noting that humidity levels will fall into single digits through Friday.
“So the concern is, if a fire starts, we could see rapid spread,” he said.
Almost 152,000 customers of Edison International’s Southern California Edison face outages in six Southern California counties, including Los Angeles and Orange, if conditions get too dangerous, according to its website. Further south, San Diego Gas & Electric may cut off 43,333 customers. Both numbers are an increase from warnings on Tuesday.
Inland areas of Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Los Angeles counties could see the largest outages, the utility said. Kern and Orange counties also could be affected.
RED FLAG WARNING in effect from 10am Wed thru 6pm Fri for gusty #SantaAnaWinds of 40-60 mph and very low humidities of 2-8 percent. Now is the time to activate your emergency plan in case of evacuations during a fast-moving #wildfire, even at night. #CAwx #LAweather #ReadySetGo! pic.twitter.com/akstU2hTjq
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) November 23, 2021
Southern California Edison spokesman Ben Gallagher said power shutoffs are “not something we take lightly,” particularly around the holidays.
“We look at all those areas that are high fire risk to avoid the potential of wildfires, but we also understand the hardship that [shutoffs] place on our customers, so we’re keeping a really close eye,” he said.
That would mark the second consecutive year that Edison cut power to homes on Thanksgiving Day due to wildfire risks. Last year, more than 75,000 Southern California Edison customers faced power shutoffs amid similar conditions around the holiday. This year has been particularly dry, with very little rain through November, officials said.
“The combination of these gusty winds, low humidities and continuing dry vegetation is likely to create critical fire weather conditions over this time,” the National Weather Service said.
It also will be a balmy Thanksgiving, with high temperatures nearing 85 degrees in some inland areas Thursday and Friday.
Joe Sirard, a weather service meteorologist in Oxnard, noted that the monstrous Thomas fire of 2017 ignited in early December under similar conditions.
That fire burned about 281,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
“That was when there was a very strong Santa Ana wind incident with very dry air,” Sirard said, adding that fall months are “usually the peak of Santa Ana season.”
Gusty Santa Anas also could make driving difficult — particularly in mountain passes and areas with strong crosswinds, officials said.
Those winds will be strengthening as millions of people take to the road: The Automobile Club of Southern California predicts that 3.8 million Southern Californians will drive to Thanksgiving destinations this year, up 9% from a year ago.
Residents are advised to take precautions while traveling and be particularly careful with any ignition sources.
“The public needs to be extra cautious with anything that could start a fire,” the weather service said. Those living near fire-prone areas such as national forests should make and review family plans in the event of an evacuation order.
“This is especially important with unaware visitors during the holiday week,” the weather service said.
On Sunday, Nov. 21st 2021, places such as San Fernando and Chatsworth, California, had winds gust to around 70 mph as a Santa Ana event occurred. Santa Ana winds are high-speed and dangerous winds that periodically kick up and blow from the mountains to the coast in Southern California. As Thanksgiving approaches this week, the region is bound to have a repeat of the situation with feisty winds turning northeasterly once more.
Across California, 8,367 fires have burned nearly 3.1 million acres (1.3 million hectares) of state and federal land this year, easily outstripping the five-year average of 5,581 fires charring 843,301 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire risk is made worse because all of the state is currently gripped by drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
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