Southern California braces for strong Santa Ana winds

Southern California is bracing this week for what could be the strongest Santa Ana winds of the year, raising concerns around fire dangers, according to experts.

“Today is the calm before the gusty winds are expected,” David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said Monday.

“This is going to be the biggest event this season,” Sweet added.

Moderate Santa Ana winds are expected to develop Tuesday morning and continue throughout the day, with gusts ranging from 35 mph to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service. A high wind watch is in effect for parts of Los Angeles County, including the mountains and the San Fernando Valley, and much of Ventura County from Tuesday night through Wednesday evening.

Gusts will peak Wednesday morning, with “damaging northeast winds” expected at 75 mph, Sweet said. Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 70s, and relative humidity will be down between 10% to 20%, Sweet added. With conditions ripe for rapid fire growth, weather experts have issued a fire weather watch for western LA County and the majority of Ventura County from 7 am to 7 pm on Wednesday.

A watch means critical fire weather conditions are possible but not imminent or occurring, weather experts said. Weather experts have warned of downed power lines and trees, and advise securing any outdoor furniture, including trampolines.

The conditions this week have also led to concerns about cold weather expected for parts of LA County.

“With very dry air in place, the temperature tends to drop like a rock overnight,” said Sweet, adding the week did not look “terribly cold.” But the wind could drop off in places including Ojai in Ventura County and the Antelope Valley, where temperatures might sink to the mid-30s any night this week, Sweet said.

Muntu Davis, the Los Angeles County public health officer, issued a cold weather alert on Sunday for several areas, including in the Santa Clarita Valley, in effect through Tuesday; the Mt. Wilson area, in effect through Wednesday; and Lancaster, in effect through Friday.

Davis said seniors, children and those with disabilities or medical needs are especially vulnerable, and reminded the public not to heat their homes with stoves, ovens or barbecues because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has a program for those who need warm shelters, Davis said.

Areas below the Cajon Pass and through the Inland Empire, including Ontario and Corona, and extending to the Santa Ana mountains and foothills, including in Tustin and Orange, could have gusts up to 70 mph. Winds will reach about 50 mph in most urban locations , said Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.

Winds are expected to below Wednesday evening. A weaker wind event is forecast for later this week, Gregoria said.

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