Santa Ana wind event continuing into late week in Southern California
Southern California is prone to wildfires significantly during the fall season and it's due to the presence of Santa Ana winds.
The threat comes just days after the first Santa Ana event of the season in the region when wind gusts topped 100 mph.
Strong winds that began to pulse across the region on Thanksgiving increased the risk for holiday travel to be impacted, as well as outdoor events.
The winds are being driven by an area of high pressure building into the Great Basin, forcing winds offshore in Southern California. As the winds move into the lower elevations, they will continue to intensify and warm, increasing the hazards to both motorists and property.
"The winds can bring down trees and power lines and cause difficult driving conditions, especially for higher-profile vehicles," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Gresiak.
Wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph will be common in the favored Santa Ana areas of Southern California, with gusts as high as 95 mph possible. On Thanksgiving, wind gusts as high as 87 mph were recorded in locations such as Julian, California.
Compared to last week, this event will be a moderate one, with the strongest gusts expected to remain in the higher terrain and below canyons and passes.
"The combination of strong winds and dry air will also increase the fire danger," Gresiak added.
Some of the most damaging fires in California history have come during and in the wake of offshore wind events in the late summer and autumn months, including during Santa Ana events. Despite some rain earlier this month, dry areas and fuels for wildfires remain, including in the form of dead brush and leaves. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 40 percent of the state remains in a state of extreme drought as of Tuesday.
"There has been no rain since the last Santa Ana events last week, so fuels have continued to dry out," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Heather Zehr.
The strongest of the winds ended Thursday night across the region, but gusty winds will still be possible through Friday for some.
"Winds should begin to diminish Thursday evening, but some stronger wind gusts can linger into Friday morning, especially over the southern ranges," added Zehr. Those southern ranges are the mountains in San Bernardino and San Diego counties.
Tall palm trees sway in the wind early on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
The expectation that lighter winds will return on Friday is good news for many, as Friday is a traditionally busy day for holiday shopping.
AccuWeather meteorologists say a large, chilly storm arriving in the Pacific Northwest over the weekend could move south through California and bring some rain and mountain snow to Southern California next week.
Another storm system could follow in the mid- to late-week period. While precipitation amounts may not be significant, any rainfall will reduce the threat of wildfires when the next Santa Ana event occurs.
Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app.AccuWeather Alerts™ are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories