Santa Ana winds will increase fire risk in Southern California

Southern California will be rocked by back-to-back wind events in Santa Ana this week, bringing high fire danger to parts of the region.

The National Weather Service office in Oxnard expects the first round of high winds and low humidity to hit Los Angeles and Ventura counties overnight Tuesday through Wednesday. A second round is possible on Saturday.

Although the area was hit with record rainfall last week, not all areas received significant rainfall, said Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist with the Oxnard office.

Wednesday’s winds will dry out grasses and the second round will dry fuels further, Phillips said, priming them for potential fires.

“Some areas got quite a bit of rain, but we need to get at least 4 inches to officially end fire season,” she said. “We’re not there yet, unfortunately.”

A red flag warning will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday for western Los Angeles County and much of Ventura County, according to the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

“Additional drying Wednesday morning into the afternoon and continued gusty and potentially damaging winds will likely support 6 or more hours of critical fire weather during the warning period,” the weather service said.

Meteorologists warned of damaging northeast winds with gusts peaking at 55 to 75 mph in the wind-prone mountains.

Winds are expected to be strongest Tuesday evening through early Wednesday afternoon. Minimum relative humidity of 8% to 18% is expected Wednesday morning through early evening.

“If a fire breaks out, there could be a rapid spread of wildfires that poses a threat to life and property,” the meteorologists said.

The weather service also issued a severe wind warning from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Northeast winds of 30 to 40 mph and gusts up to 65 mph are expected in the mountains of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, meteorologists said.

Forecasts for Saturday’s wind event are still changing, but models show wind speeds could be 5-10 mph slower than Wednesday’s Santa Ana winds.

Although weekend winds may be weaker, they are still a risk, meteorologists said.

Residents should avoid using equipment such as weeders, driving over dry grass or any activity that could cause sparks, Phillips said.

Strong winds and dry air cause sparks to travel much farther than they normally would, increasing the risk of fire starting, she said.

A high wind warning will also be in effect from 8:00 p.m. Tuesday to 10:00 p.m. Wednesday for the valleys of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the Inland Empire, the mountains of San Bernardino County, the mountains and foothills of Santa Ana and interior areas of Orange County, the San Diego Weather Service Office said.

Northeast winds of 25 to 35 mph are expected with gusts of up to 60 mph, the weather service said. Gusts of up to 70 mph are possible below Cajon Pass and near the coastal foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.

A red flag warning was not issued for the Inland Empire or Orange County.

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