Los Angeles County emergency officials warn of fire conditions in the coming days
An abrupt change from cool fall weather to extreme dry winds over the next couple of days has Los Angeles County emergency management officials sounding the alarm about potential wildfires and power outages.
“We have had a week of pretty cool weather,” said Kevin McGowan, director of L.A. County’s Office of Emergency Management. “Starting at midnight tonight that’s going to flip 180 degrees. … We want people to be prepared.”
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Sunday night through Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a pretty good Santa Ana event,” said Mike Wofford, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
Winds gusts in the mountains could reach 70 mph to 80 mph, “but it’s going to be windy down in the valleys as well,” Wofford said. Humidity will drop into the single digits.
“We have 70%, 80%, 90%, 100% humidity now,” Wooford said. “Starting tomorrow, it will be just the opposite.”
That combination sets the stage for dangerous fire conditions, he added.
“Use common sense. It’s going to be really dry,” Wooford said. “The fuels are ready to burn.”
The warning comes as Pacific Gas and Electric said it would cut power to nearly 1 million people in Northern and Central California on Sunday amid dangerous fire weather.
About 71,000 Southern California Edison customers in Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, Kern, San Bernardino and Ventura counties have also been notified that they are under consideration for possible public safety power shutoffs, said Ron Gales, spokesman for the company. The preemptive shutoffs come out of concern that wind can damage equipment, creating a spark that might ignite brush and lead to a wildfire.
“We understand how important it is for all our customers and their families to have access to electricity at home during this health crisis,” Gales said. “We are making every effort to reduce the number and length of shutoffs. We use these outages only as required to reduce the risk of wildfires.”
Police in Simi Valley also warned residents who are dependent on electricity to power medical devices to prepare for possible outages.
McGowan urged residents to prepare and plan ahead for possible evacuations prompted by wildfires — including by keeping mobile phones charged and nearby to receive emergency alerts throughout the night and by parking vehicles so they face the street, to avoid having to back out. People should also sign up for local emergency notification systems, he said.
The need to plan ahead is even more acute because of coronavirus precautions, McGowan said.
“Traditionally we evacuate residents to large shelters,” he said. “We’re trying to avoid doing that so we don’t create undue risk for COVID-19 exposure.”
County officials encouraged residents in fire-prone areas to reach out to family and friends elsewhere to plan for possible evacuations. Additional tips for planning ahead can be found on L.A. County’s emergency-preparedness website.
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