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Southern California heat records fall as dry Santa Ana winds keep on blowing

LOS ANGELES — New heat records were set Friday in Los Angeles and Long Beach as Santa Ana winds continued battering parts of Southern California, coupling with low humidity to increase the danger of wildfires.

Downtown LA reached 86 degrees, breaking the record of 85 set in 2014, according to the National Weather Service. Long Beach hit 90 degrees, topping the daily record of 89 set in 1976.

The NWS said the city’s all-time high in January is 93 degrees, which was still within range if the heat persisted.

A red flag warning of critical fire danger conditions took effect at 4 p.m. Thursday for the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area, Los Angeles County mountains, Angeles National Forest and the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys, along with inland Orange County and the Santa Ana mountains.

The warning had been scheduled to expire at 4 p.m. Friday, but the NWS extended it until 4 p.m. Saturday, and indicated it could be stretched into Sunday, primarily due to the high winds expected.

Wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph are anticipated across much of the affected areas this weekend, with humidity dropping to between 8% and 15%, forecasters said.

And by early next week, wind gusts to 60 mph are possible in valleys, and wind gusts to 65 mph are possible in mountains, with isolated gusts of 70-80 mph, an NWS spokesperson said at a 1 p.m. Friday briefing.

“Any time you get winds over 60 miles an hour, it’s a big concern,” the spokesperson said.

“Even though our red flag criteria includes relative humidity below 15%, if you do get winds that are strong enough, even (with) relative humidities between 20 and 30% … once you get a fire started — and our vegetation is very dry right now, we haven’t had any rain since November — and all of the fuel and vegetation are still very dry … you could still get some rapid fire spread,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier, the NWS reported that “strong high pressure aloft and moderate offshore pressure gradients will create periods of critical fire weather conditions through Saturday and possibly into Sunday.

“The highest fire weather risk will be today (Friday) across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Winds are expected to drop off later this afternoon through the overnight hours, however the latest computer models indicate low humidities will continue through Saturday with winds increasing again early Saturday morning through afternoon,” the NWS reported.

“Some areas on Saturday may not quite reach the duration for red flag but most areas will have at least three to six hours of red flag conditions and for this reason the warning has been extended until 4 p.m. Saturday,”

According to the NWS, dry conditions will persist into Sunday, but wind speeds will likely drop below 25 mph, except for some isolated gusts. But windier conditions are expected to return early next week.

“A strong north to northeast wind event is likely sometime between Monday and Wednesday, mostly likely strongest Tuesday and Tuesday night with wind gusts as high as 80 mph or possibly even higher in some areas,” according to the NWS. “At this time it appears humidities will be too high for red flag conditions but damaging winds are possible, especially across Los Angeles and Ventura counties.”


Source: Orange County Register

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