Strong Santa Ana Winds Raise Risk Of Wildfires Again In San Diego County
UPDATE: 5:49 p.m., Dec. 7, 2020
Gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity will significantly raise the risk of wildfires in the San Diego County mountains and western valleys Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather agency issued a red flag warning that will be in effect from 4 a.m. Monday through 10 p.m. Tuesday in the mountains and the western valleys.
A high wind warning will also be in effect from 6 p.m. Monday through noon Tuesday in those two areas.
Alex Tardy of the National Weather Service said the red flag warning is cause for concern as some parts of San Diego County are still at high risk for wildfires.
“It’s as if it's October right now even though the calendar says it's December — because our fuel conditions, our vegetation, is not only just dry, but it's record dry," he said.
Winds out of the northeast Monday are expected to be between 15-25 mph, with gusts potentially reaching 35 mph this afternoon in the mountains and the western valleys, forecasters said. The strongest winds are expected Monday night through Tuesday in those two areas.
Humidity levels will drop to around 10%, with poor recovery expected overnight.
Tardy also said that this red flag warning can be differentiated from other recent Santa Anas as it may affect parts of the county that previously did not see strong winds.
“Other places that saw less wind last week will probably see more wind this week. And that can include areas along the valleys like Escondido, Valley Center, Rancho Santa Fe, even places like El Cajon and all the way up to Alpine," Tardy said. "This particular event overall looks a little bit weaker but the concerning part about this event is some of the wind will be a little more widespread.”
The red flag warning means that outdoor burning should be avoided because any fires that develop will spread rapidly, according to the NWS. The high wind warning advises that the gusty conditions may knock down trees or power lines, and travel will be difficult for high profile vehicles in wind-prone areas.
As of early Monday evening, San Diego Gas & Electric had instituted public safety power shutoffs in parts of Alpine, Descanso, Jamul, La Jolla Reservation, Mesa Grande Reservation, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Reservation, Pauma Valley, Ramona, Rincon Reservation, San Pasqual Reservation, Santa Ysabel, Santa Ysabel Reservation and Valley Center in a bid to avoid any blazes ignited by transmission equipment.
A total of 5,602 customers were affected, and the utility advised another 44,881 across the East County and North County that their power might also be shut off as a precaution.
Because of possible power shutoffs, schools in the Alpine Union and Warner Unified school districts will be closed Tuesday. The Mountain Empire Unified School District schools will offer asynchronous learning.
This red flag warning also coincides with the rollout of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services’ Social Bridging Project in San Diego. Karen Baker of the Governor's Office said the initiative has volunteers directly calling at-risk residents in San Diego County about emergency preparedness.
“Only one out of every four San Diego folks are prepared, have an alert and warning system on their phone. We need to make that four out of four. And so that's what we are really working toward, getting everyone prepared," Baker said.
More than 2,500 San Diego County residents who live in high-risk areas have already been contacted by the state’s Social Bridging Project.
High temperatures Monday are forecast to reach 69 degrees near the coast, 71 inland, 76 in the western valleys, 64 in the mountains and 73 in the deserts.
Conditions are expected to warm up Tuesday and Wednesday, then temperatures will drop slightly on Thursday and Friday, forecasters said.