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Santa Ana winds may ignite wildfire risk in Southern California during last week of November

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
November 27, 2017, 2:16:45 PM EST

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Following record warmth with light winds over this past week, temperatures are forecast to throttle back across Southern California. However, Santa Ana winds are likely to kick up on a couple of occasions during the last week of November.

The return of gusty winds early in the week may create conditions conducive for wildfire ignition and spread.

As a storm pushes inland on Monday, winds will kick up over the interior Southwest.

Static Monday Winds SW

Motorists may encounter stiff crosswinds and blowing dust on their travels over Interstate 15 and I-40 into Monday evening.

Winds may kick up along the Southern California coast as well this week.

"We foresee two potential wind events in coastal Southern California to close out November," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

"We may have one wind event developing in the typical Santa Ana wind-favored areas Monday night into Tuesday. Santa Ana winds may then return Wednesday," Pydynowski said.

The key to how strong the Santa Ana winds are will depend on the strength of high pressure areas building over the Great Basin and how aligned winds are at the surface versus aloft.

dry winds mon night tuesday

A high pressure area represents a large mass of dry air that rotates clockwise. Since this air is sinking and being compressed, it represents an area of high atmospheric pressure.

When winds are aligned near the ground and aloft, strong gusts from aloft can make their way down to the surface.

"During Tuesday's event, the high pressure area over the Great Basin may not be that strong, but winds may line up rather well," Pydynowski said. "During Wednesday's event, the high pressure area looks to be strong but may not nose far enough to the south to provide the necessary large pressure gradient that can typically cause winds to howl."

"A large pressure gradient in place across Southern California will cause winds to accelerate in a way similar to how winds howl in between city skyscrapers," Pydynowski said. "The tighter the alley or pressure gradient, the stronger the winds must blow to squeeze in between that space."

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As a result, only a weak Santa Ana event is forecast for both cases this week. At this time, winds are forecast to average 15-25 mph with gusts of 25-35 mph in the northeastward-facing canyons. Across the mountains, wind gusts of 35-45 mph will be possible. As is often the case, winds will be light during the events in Downtown Los Angeles.

Should each high pressure area end up being stronger, the Santa Ana may be stronger in both cases.

People will need to be careful when using outdoor power equipment and any open flames or barbecue grills with the upcoming weather conditions.

For those setting up outdoor Christmas decorations, make sure the light strings are in good condition with no bare wire exposed. Always use extension cords that are intended for outdoor use and never toss burning cigarettes outside.

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