Strong Santa Ana winds buffeted Southern California on Tuesday, toppling big rigs and trees, knocking down power lines and wreaking havoc on outdoor Christmas decorations.
The winds, which began whipping through Los Angeles and Ventura counties overnight, are expected to peak about noon before tapering off. They could reach up to 25 mph with gusts up to 55 mph along the coast and stronger in the mountains and foothills, where gusts could reach up to 70 mph, said Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
Wind advisories are in effect for the Ventura County and Los Angeles County coasts, and in downtown L.A., Malibu, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Long Beach, along with the San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita Valley. Drivers are advised to use extra caution, especially when operating high-profile vehicles and traveling wind-prone routes, such as canyon roads through the Santa Monica Mountains, according to the weather service.
Gusty winds toppled big rigs on freeways Tuesday morning, resulting in traffic delays across the region. At about 7 a.m., winds flipped a big rig on its side on the northbound 15 Freeway near the Sierra Avenue exit in Fontana. Several other truck drivers pulled to the side of the freeway to wait out the wind.
In Chatsworth, several lanes on the eastbound 118 Freeway were closed for about two hours after strong winds overturned a big rig about 8 a.m. An hour later in San Diego County, a big rig toppled over on the westbound Interstate 8 as winds began to blow in the region.
Gusts reaching 67 mph were recorded in Warm Springs in the mountains of Los Angeles County shortly before 6 a.m. at the same time wind speeds up to 48 mph were felt along the Newhall Pass in the Santa Clarita Valley. A 91-mph gust hit Hellhole Canyon, an open space east of Escondido, shortly before 9 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.
The dry wind has also heightened concerns about possible fire weather. Rains that swept through the area earlier this month and in November helped dampen dry vegetation, hopefully lessening the risk of widespread fire, Phillips said.
“Still, we are experiencing really high winds and the dew points and humidity are low, so we have elevated fire weather concerns for the area today as that Santa Ana wind event continues,” she said.
#SantaAnawinds will bring gusty dry air to the area tonight through Tuesday! This will lead to elevated fire weather concerns and a potential for downed trees and power lines in areas that experience high gusts! Use caution when driving and avoid creating sparks! #lawx #SoCal pic.twitter.com/y1MRWOFwFH— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) December 17, 2019
Daytime temperatures throughout much of Los Angeles County are expected to hover in the mid- to high 60s. Overnight temperatures will remain in the mid-40s throughout the region, which is typical for this time of year, Phillips said.
“I think people forget and then wonder why it’s so cold,” she said. “Well, it’s supposed to be.”
As the wind dissipates, a low-pressure system is expected to move into the region, bringing chances of rain to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties on Wednesday. Los Angeles is expected to stay dry until Sunday, however, when a low-pressure system from the southern portion of Alaska will bring rain — just in time for the official start of winter and holiday travel.
Early forecasts show the rain is expected to linger through at least Monday and possibly into Tuesday, but it’s too early to tell whether it’ll be a wet Christmas, forecasters say.