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Santa Ana Winds Continue In San Diego County, Increase Risk Of Wildfires

Two Cal Fire firefighters walk down a road during efforts to fight the Valley...

Photo by Mike Damron

Above: Two Cal Fire firefighters walk down a road during efforts to fight the Valley Fire in San Diego County, Sept. 8, 2020.

Santa Ana winds have swept through parts of San Diego County Tuesday as temperatures heat up and humidity remains low, significantly raising the risk of wildfires throughout the region, according to the National Weather Service.

A wide area of high pressure will remain over the western United States today, ushering in hot and dry weather in Southern California through Thursday.

Listen to this story by Jacob Aere.

According to meteorologist Alex Tardy of the National Weather Service, the hot weather and Santa Ana winds could create a tinderbox effect for fires.

“Even though our fire danger might be at its peak today, because of the Santa Ana wind, and the temperatures and the low humidity, the fire danger remains all week with us because of the really warm, unusually warm, above-average temperatures through the whole week, and then also the dry air,” Tardy said.

A red flag warning was originally set to expire at 5 p.m. Monday, but was extended through 5 p.m. today for the San Diego County mountains and western valleys.

Sustained winds out of the east and northeast are expected to be between 15-25 mph, with gusts possible reaching 35 mph, forecasters said. Daytime humidity is expected to drop to 8-12 percent today throughout the region.

The red flag warning means that outdoor burning is not recommended, and any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly, according to the NWS. Winds will weaken on Wednesday, but humidity will remain low throughout the region amid hot temperatures.

A heat advisory is also in effect from 10 a.m. today through 8 p.m. Thursday in coastal areas and the western valleys.

“We’ve got a long road to go is the bottom line,” Tardy said. “We have got to get through October and November where normally we see more Santa Ana wind events and they typically become stronger as we go through October and November.”

Temperatures are expected to peak on Wednesday and residents are advised to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun and check up on relatives and neighbors, according to the NWS.

High temperatures today are forecast to reach 84 degrees near the coast, 97 inland, 105 in the western valleys, 94 in the mountains and 106 in the deserts.

The mercury could reach 107 in a few western valley communities on Wednesday, then drop to 99 on Thursday, forecasters said. Highs in the deserts are expected to reach 111 on Wednesday, then increase to 112 on Thursday.

Tardy says this next week could be just the start of a dry and windy fall fire season for the San Diego region.

“Our main concern this fall is by far and large, until it rains, the fire danger is extreme,” he said. “And when we have these wind events, or the heat waves, or both like in September, it's even more extreme.”

To help residents escape the heat, the county is offering nine air- conditioned cooling centers in Alpine, Borrego Springs, Fallbrook, Lakeside, Potrero, Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Spring Valley and Valley Center.

Due to the coronavirus, mandatory mask-wearing and social-distancing protocols are enforced in the facilities. A full list of the locations can be found online.

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