LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Powerful Santa Ana wind gusts have created unprecedented wildfire worries and caused power shutoffs across the Southland Monday and Tuesday amid red flag conditions the region has not seen since last year.
A Red Flag Warning is in effect from 5 a.m. Monday through 6 p.m. Tuesday for most of Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties, as well as the Inland Empire.
Wind gusts had already hit a staggering 96 miles per hour in the San Gabriel Mountains just east of Santa Clarita Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service. They could also reach 65 mph in the valleys.
“I found a satellite dish on my front porch, somebody’s dish, it was not ours,” Canyon Country resident Joey Cevallos said.
In Orange County, a wildfire broke out in Santiago Canyon east of Irvine and exploded to 7,200 acres by late Monday afternoon. About 60,000 residents were ordered to evacuate.
On Monday afternoon, another blaze broke out near Yorba Linda, forcing additional evacuations. The Blue Ridge Fire burned more than 1,100 acres by early Monday evening.
One driver in Burbank drove over a low-voltage power line which had been downed by the wind and it then wrapped around one of the wheels of the Honda CRV.
The driver remained in the SUV while Burbank Water and Power crews responded and ensured the power line was de-energized and removed it.
The strong winds also flipped over canopies for outdoor restaurant sitting areas in downtown Burbank.
“We typically go on our walk every morning, and we just started seeing everything flying everywhere,” Burbank resident Nate Howard said.
Because of the extremely dry brush, the NWS said the region is seeing the most dangerous wildfire conditions since October of 2019, when the Saddleridge, Tick, Getty, Easy and Maria fires destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of people to flee in L.A. and Ventura counties.
“The moderate to strong Santa Ana winds coupled with very low humidities and very dry fuels will likely bring the most dangerous fire weather conditions we have seen since October 2019 to Los Angeles and Ventura counties,” the NWS said in a statement.
Southern California Edison began shutting off power Monday morning to thousands of residents in Simi Valley and Jurupa Valley to lower the risk of snapped electrical lines. In total, SoCal Edison could shut off power to about 25,000 customers in L.A. County, 58,000 in San Bernardino County, and another 11,000 to 15,000 in each of Ventura, Orange and Riverside counties.
“During these Santa Ana wind events, we have palm fronds and tree branches that blow into our power lines, and during that time, if the power is still on, it can cause a spark, so we de-energize the power lines before these wind events occur,” Reggie Kumar, SCE spokesperson, said. “Power is expected to be restored to these customers within 24 hours after the weather event ends and after crews inspect the lines and determine it is safe to reenergize.”
The Hollywood Hills could see wind gusts of up to 50 mph. A high wind warning is in place from 8 a.m. Monday through 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The NWS said that a “particularly dangerous situation” is expected in the San Gabriel mountains Monday afternoon and evening due to the unusual combination of damaging wind gusts of 60 to 75 miles per hour, single-digit humidity and extremely dry vegetation.
Some of the strongest winds are expected along the Grapevine, according to the NWS.
In response to windy conditions, the L.A. County Fire Department said it has boosted staffing, with Fire Chief Daryl Osby ordering pre-deployment of resources throughout the County. Strike teams were strategically deployed in Canyon Country, Agoura Hills and La Canada Flintridge. About 100 extra fire personnel have been brought in as well.
The L.A. County Office of Emergency Management said it will be prepared as well.
“Our emergency response officials are world-class and will stand ready to defend lives and property,” Director Kevin McGowan said on Sunday afternoon. “We need collaboration from all residents who live in L.A. County to stay safe as a region. We must all do our part by staying informed and being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice, especially if you live in canyon, mountain or foothill communities.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)