Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Strong Santa Ana winds lashed the Southland today and combined with bone-dry vegetation and low humidity to create fears of rapidly spreading wildfires.
A red flag warning signifying critical fire-weather conditions will be in effect until at least 6 p.m. throughout the region -- not just mountain, forest and valley areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, but urban areas as well, along with coastal areas of Orange County.
In addition to the red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service, red flag warnings were declared by the Los Angeles city and county fire departments, entailing parking restrictions where fire trucks could require urgent, unimpeded access.
Parking restrictions were to go into effect at 8 a.m. in selected parts of Los Angeles. More information on the restrictions can be obtained at www.lafd.org/redflag.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department, meanwhile, asked residents in brush-heavy areas to take precautions, including reporting any sign of smoke, using caution when operating spark- or flame-producing machinery and having a wildfire action plan in place. More information is available from www.fire.lacounty.gov.
County fire Capt. Mark Savage also suggested reporting any suspicious persons or vehicles to law enforcement.
The "strong and widespread Santa Ana wind event'' now taking place stems from an offshore pattern created by high pressure across the Great Basin, according to the weather service.
Winds gusting at more than 60 miles per hour were recorded this morning in San Gabriel mountain locales in Los Angeles County.
NWS meteorologists said they expect gusts of 60-70 mph in the mountains, 50-60 mph in the valleys and 40-50 mph in coastal and urban areas, and for humidity levels to dip to the single digits during daytime hours.
"Due to the strength of this wind event, there will the potential for downed power lines. If any fire ignitions were to occur, there would be a high risk for a rapid fire spread across Los Angeles and Ventura counties,'' according to an NWS advisory.
The NWS issued a high wind warning effective until 3 p.m. In Los Angeles County, it applies to the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains and the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys. A less serious wind advisory will be in effect until 3 p.m. in the San Gabriel Valley and L.A. County's coastal zone, which runs from the coast to the Hollywood Hills and takes in such urban centers as downtown Los Angeles.
A high wind warning signifies the possibility of sustained winds of at least 40 mph with gusts of 58 mph or more. A wind advisory indicates winds of 35 mph or greater.
A rapid cooling trend will begin Thursday, reducing temperatures by up to 20 degrees over a two-day period. Downtown L.A., for instance, is forecast to experience a high of 84 today but 74 Thursday and 64 on Friday.