Santa Ana winds and fire warnings? It must be October in Southern California

The first significant Santa Ana winds of the season will bring higher temperatures, lower humidity and gusts of up to 75 mph across the Southland this week, forecasters said Sunday.

High winds, dry trees and brush, and humidity that could fall to the single digits have created “critical fire weather conditions” that could accelerate the pace of any wildfires that ignite in the mountains in north and northwest Los Angeles County, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds may reach speeds of 70 mph overnight Sunday and into Monday in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Santa Clarita Valley and inland valleys of Ventura County, the weather service said. Red flag warnings were slated to go into effect at 3 a.m. Monday in those areas.

The Hollywood Hills and Malibu could see gusts of up to 45 mph, the weather service said. A red flag warning is slated to begin at 6 a.m. Monday in the Los Angeles-area valleys and the mountains between Dodger Stadium and Malibu.

Winds that strong can knock down trees or power lines. But for most Angelenos, the damage will likely be limited to the wind hurling the vestiges of summer — lounge chairs, coolers, portable grills — across the yard, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“Do your neighbors a favor and put that stuff away,” Hoxsie said.

The high winds could also create spot fires, caused when wind carries embers from a main fire, igniting another blaze nearby or some distance away.

Driving could also be dangerous for anyone driving a truck or towing a trailer through canyon areas, where cliffs can funnel wind gusts onto the road, Hoxsie said.

Meteorologists advise motorists to stay alert, use both hands on the wheel and watch the cars ahead for any potential gusts. Routes where strong winds could strike include Highway 33 in Ventura County; the 5 Freeway and highways 14 and 126 in the Santa Clarita Valley; and a handful of routes through the Santa Monica Mountains.

laura.nelson@latimes.com

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