Explosive fire growth threatens Southern California as strongest Santa Ana winds of season howl
By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
December 07, 2017, 6:45:29 AM EST
Share this article:
More residents of Southern California will have to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice as the strongest and most prolonged Santa Ana wind event so far this season continues through this week.
Four large fires are actively burning across Southern California as of Thursday morning.
More lives, including those of firefighters, and property may be threatened by rapidly spreading wildfires as no relief from the gusty winds will come to Southern California the rest of this week.
"This Santa Ana event is different than most that hit Southern California," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said.
"Usually, there is a 12- to 24-hour period of the highest winds and then the winds decrease," he said. "This one will be a four- to five-day event, which will make fighting ongoing fires much more difficult. The risk for additional fast-moving fires is quite high."
Santa Ana winds began whipping the mountains and communities through and below the passes and canyons of Southern California at the start of this week as a strong area of high pressure settled into the Great Basin.
Since the high will not be quick to depart and/or weaken, gusty winds will continue through the week, as AccuWeather has been warning about since early in the weekend.
Gusts between 40 and 50 mph in the canyons and passes and 60 and locally 80 mph in the mountains will be a daily occurrence this week.
"The winds will make it difficult to get air support into these wildfires," Clark said. "Helicopters may be able to aid firefighters, but the winds can be more problematic for larger aircraft."
The fire danger on Thursday may become more extreme when compared to Tuesday as temperatures are expected to be higher and the strongest winds will cover a larger area of Southern California.
How to prepare for wildfires so you can escape safely if a blaze approaches
MAP: Fire-related watches, warnings
How inhaling wildfire smoke can wreak havoc on your health
Reports: Growing wildfires scorch Los Angeles, threaten tens of thousands of structures in Southern California
On Tuesday, the mountains east of San Diego escaped the strongest winds that whipped the higher terrain surrounding Los Angeles. This is not expected to be the case on Thursday.
As is typical during Santa Ana wind events, winds around Downtown Los Angeles will stay calm.
Residents will have to use extreme caution with cigarette butts, campfires and any equipment that produces sparks through this week.
The air dries out dramatically as winds blow from inland areas to the coast, putting Southern California at significant risk for any sparks or embers to grow into larger blazes that the winds can make uncontrollable.
The winds may also down trees and power lines. The exterior of weaker structures may sustain damage. In addition to causing power outages, the sparks from downed lines and transformers may also start fires.
Motorists planning to travel on Interstates 5, 8, 10 and 15 through the wind-prone areas of Southern California can face significant hazards. Threatening blazes may force officials to close more roads.
Dangerous crosswinds threaten to overturn high-profile vehicles, including those on I-15’s Cajon Pass. Visibility can be dramatically reduced at times as the winds kick up blowing dust or transport wildfire smoke.
Poor air quality will not be limited to the areas in the immediate vicinity of the fires. The winds are strong enough to spread the smoke hundreds of miles downwind.
Large waves and swells will also continue to batter Catalina Harbor as the winds howl.
"Catalina Harbor is typically a very calm place except during Santa Ana wind events," Clark said. "Due to the pounding seas, there is concern for flooding and boat damage."
Winds will begin to decrease during the day Friday. However, a breeze will continue to stir and very dry air will remain through this weekend.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 10:39:36 AM EST
As cleanup efforts commence in the wake of Cyclone Gaja, another round of potentially flooding rain is aiming at southern India next week.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 10:18:01 AM EST
One of the most well-known meteor showers of the year is set to peak this weekend as the Leonids will be on full display across Europe.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 10:07:50 AM EST
Following the development of Tropical Storm Toraji near Vietnam, another tropical concern may brew in the coming days and impact the Philippines.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 9:58:12 AM EST
A storm will spread rain and wind through the Balkans with downpours grazing southern Italy into Sunday.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 8:30:18 AM EST
While there are currently no tropical threats in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Lenny was tracking the "wrong way" through the basin during mid-November 1999.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 6:12:58 AM EST
The weather will cooperate for a majority of those traveling by road or air for the Thanksgiving holiday, with a few exceptions.
Weather News - November 16, 2018, 1:30:54 PM EST
Drenching thunderstorms may do more than ruin weekend plans across central South America. Flash flooding can be triggered in some communities from northern parts of Argentina and Uruguay to southern Brazil.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 8:28:26 AM EST
A major winter storm slammed the eastern United States Wednesday into Friday, causing travel disruptions, massive power outages, school closures, and numerous injuries and fatalities.