Southern California: Santa Ana Winds Cause Highest Fire Threat in Five Years

By Mark Leberfinger, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
October 06, 2013; 1:30 AM
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The wildfire threat is significant in Southern California as Santa Ana winds blast across much of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Peak wind gusts of 60-70 mph will occur through the mountains of Los Angeles and Ventura counties with isolated gusts as high as 80 mph.

The Los Angeles National Weather Service said this is the highest wildfire threat in the past five years, due to the strong Santa Ana winds.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that severe drought conditions are gripping Southern California, making matter worse, since there is an abundance of dry vegetation to fuel fires.

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Sparks from downed power lines and the work of arsonists are the main fire threats, AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said. Some of the worst fires result from Santa Ana winds because they quickly spread the flames and embers, sometimes even causing fires to jump highways.

The winds are expected to create hazardous travel, particularly of high-profile vehicles, through the region. Two potential areas of concern would be the Grapevine, Interstate 5 going into the Central Valley, and Interstate 15 through the Cajon Pass going up toward Las Vegas.

Santa Ana winds are a phenomenon that occurs during the fall and winter months in Southern California, Clark said. They are the strongest from October to December.

They are created as the result of high pressure building in the Pacific Northwest and lower pressure along the Southern California coast. A strong pressure gradient sets up, bringing the winds into Southern California.

The winds will be stronger through passes and canyons as they accelerate more than they normally would.

AccuWeather Meteorologist Meghan Evans contributed to the content of this story.

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