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Fire weather expected to ease as winds die down, temperatures drop

Southern California residents are expected to get a reprieve beginning Wednesday, Dec. 9, from the gusty winds and bone-dry temperatures that have escalated the risk of wildfires and forced power shutoffs.

The next several days are expected to be cooler, less dry and less windy, as the dangerous combination of strong winds and low humidity that has hung around the region for more than a weak begins to ease.

A red flag warning – marking an extreme wildfire risk – was to expire late Tuesday night. That elevated fire risk is present when extraordinarily dry vegetation could fuel a wildfire driven rapidly by strong winds,  complicating firefighting efforts.

But a low-pressure system was expected to bring an onshore flow beginning Wednesday, a change of pace from the hot and dry Santa Ana winds that have blown across much of the region in recent days.

“Much cooler and a little more moist,” said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It is a brief respite from a long, extended period of very dry conditions.”

Generally, temperatures are expected to drop from the upper 70s and lower 80s on Tuesday to the mid-70s on Wednesday and into the mid-60s later in the week.

Rain is not forecast for at least the next week, and the weekend is expected to bring the return of lighter, but still dry, Santa Ana winds.

“Precipitation chances are looking less than normal for this time of year,” said Elizabeth Schenk, another meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It will just continue to be extremely dry across the area.”

The elevated fire weather over the past week forced Southern California Edison to shut off electricity for thousands of customers, to avoid having live power lines spark a fire.

As of early afternoon Tuesday, there were 17,119 customers in Riverside County without power, 11,122 in Los Angeles County, 3,639 in San Bernardino County and five in Orange County.

Tens of thousands more were in areas where potential shutoffs were under consideration.

Southern California Edison spokesman Chris Abel said the fire-weather warnings were a factor but not the sole basis for whether to declare so-called “public-safety power shutoffs.” The shutoff decisions are made in real time and also based on first-hand accounts of workers in the field.

“If there is debris flying around in the air, or if we are seeing the lines swaying or running into each other, that is something that is reported back,” Abel said. “We only do (such shutoffs) to reduce the risk of wildfires.”


Source: Orange County Register

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