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    "Once a Decade" Santa Ana Wind Event for California

    By By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
    December 01, 2011, 1:53:25 PM EST

    All the ingredients have come together to trigger a severe Santa Ana wind event across southern California that will last into Thursday, with other areas in the Southwest also facing potentially damaging winds.

    "A once a decade type wind storm," is how AccuWeather.com Western Expert Meteorologist Ken Clark is describing the Santa Ana winds.


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    The populated Santa Ana wind-prone areas will endure gusts to 70 mph, while the highest gusts on the neighboring mountaintops will range from 80 to 100 mph.

    The strongest winds will howl into Thursday.

    Click here for a sampling of some peak wind gusts observed since Wednesday across the Southwest.

    What are Santa Ana Winds? AccuWeather.com's Alex Rabb has an explanation.

    "Winds of this magnitude will cause damage [to trees and structures] and widespread travel and power disruptions," warned Clark.

    "High-profile vehicles will be forced to not travel and even traveling in cars in the wind-prone areas will be dangerous" because powerful crosswinds can easily overturn trucks and campers and severely tug on smaller vehicles.

    Power was knocked out to 80,000 people across southern California Wednesday night, while officials at Los Angeles International Airport even order a ground stoppage for a time.


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    Bodily harm may not only result from falling trees and branches, but also as loose lawn items and Christmas decorations get tossed around and turn into what Clark describes as "airborne missiles."

    Despite declaring that this will be a "chilly Santa Ana event," AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski cautions that the wildfire danger should not be taken lightly.

    "Dry air often accompanies Santa Ana events and makes the fuel, such as dry brush, more ready to burn. Any fires that get started and are not extinguished quickly could be whipped into a frenzy by the strong winds."

    It is not just Southern California bracing for potentially damaging winds. San Francisco, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and other locations from Utah to California and far western Arizona will also be threatened.

    According to World Weather Expert Jim Andrews, "The Wasatch Range will experience especially powerful east to northeast winds in this situation from into Thursday evening."

    The setup in the Wasatch is known as a bora.

    Albuquerque, N.M., will also be especially susceptible to damaging winds, and will likely experience hurricane-force gusts through tonight.

    In addition to damage, the winds could lead to flight delays. Motorists traveling through the deserts could also be faced with reduced visibility from blowing dust.

    There are two advantages to this wind event--dense fog will finally clear the San Joaquin Valley today and the same storm kicking up the wind will bring welcome snow to the ski resorts of the Four Corners region tonight into Friday.

    Friday is also when the wind event throughout the Southwest will ease, but yet another (though likely not as strong) may follow this weekend.

    AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Bill Deger contributed to the content of this story.

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