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Santa Ana winds, dry conditions in Southern California prompt concerns about wildfires

Drier than usual conditions have some meteorologists concerned about the Santa Ana wind event projected to affect much of Southern California by the middle of this week.

While these wind events are not atypical for the region this time of the year, there is usually some December rain to help provide a little moisture, said Kathy Hoxsie, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Los Angeles.

“This is particularly concerning because our area is so dry,” Hoxsie said. “It’s not only so dry now, it will be even drier when these winds come through.”

With a high pressure system currently over the Great Basin, Santa Ana wind conditions are projected to begin ramping back up on Tuesday evening, Hoxsie said. Red flag fire warning conditions are expected to be in place Wednesday through Friday, with Thursday having the strongest chance for hazardous wind conditions, said Brandt Maxwell, meteorologist with the NWS in San Diego.

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Maxwell said that while the wind event “probably” won’t be as strong as the system on Thanksgiving, dry vegetation conditions pose “very dangerous” fire weather conditions.

“You’ve got very low humidity, with 10 percent humidity or less in some of the mountain areas,” Maxwell said. “Generally (the fire concerns are) the areas where you have the strongest wind gusts, such as places below the Cajon Pass, along I-10 through Banning and the San Gorgonio Pass.”

Hoxsie said that NWS Los Angeles is expecting to see the strongest wind gusts affect the Santa Clarita Valley, the west side of the San Fernando Valley as well as mountain and canyon regions.

“Right now we’re looking at 25-45 mph wind gusts,” Hoxsie said. “We’re confident there will at least be moderate strength (wind gusts), but if this gets stronger, we could see stronger winds that can be 50-65 mph.”

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Hoxsie said that it was difficult to forecast whether the wind conditions would be moderate versus strong. She explained that an upper low-pressure system is dropping down out of Canada, which could push the winds at a steeper gradient than usual, depending on how far to the west the system moves.

Through the remainder of the year, chances for any additional moisture are “not looking good” either, Maxwell said.

In the meantime, Monday’s highs are projected to be 77 degrees in Anaheim and Downtown Los Angeles, 75 degrees in Ontario and 78 degrees in Corona.


Source: Orange County Register

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