Power shut off to over 43,000 amid dangerous winds as fires burn in Southern California
More than 43,000 Southern California Edison customers were without power Thursday amid a dangerous Santa Ana wind event that already had fueled at least two wildfires in the region.
The utility company initiated the public safety power shutoff across seven counties late Wednesday in an effort to prevent its electric system from becoming a source of ignition, Edison spokesman Ron Gales said.
The shutoff includes 21,000 customers in Riverside County, 7,800 in Los Angeles County and 2,800 in Ventura County.
Nearly 250,000 additional customers across eight counties are under consideration for a shutoff as well, Gales said.
“I cannot emphasize enough that de-energization only takes place as a last resort,” Gales said. “We only de-energize a circuit when we have no other choice. … We’re looking at wind speeds, relative humidity and the abundance of fuel and dried brush.”
Calling it a “particularly dangerous situation,” the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning indicating critical fire conditions through 6 p.m. Friday for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
In Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the red flag warning will remain in effect through 10 p.m. Saturday.
The weather service said parts of Southern California, including the Santa Clarita and San Bernardino valleys and the mountains in Los Angeles, Ventura and Riverside counties, could see winds as high as 70 mph Thursday.
A gust of 85 mph was recorded in the San Gabriel Mountains near Sylmar on Wednesday night.
The winds will be met with extreme dryness, said Mark Moede, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego. Humidity levels in the region will be dropping as low as 4%, further fueling fire concerns.
“It’s very, very dry out there,” Moede said. “We’re looking at single-digit humidities, and I’m sure everyone is going to be feeling that either with their skin or with their sinuses.”
Low humidity contributes to dried vegetation that can fuel fires, which can spell disaster when paired with strong winds. A wildfire fanned by winds erupted in San Diego on Wednesday night and quickly burned through 25 acres, destroying at least one home.
Another wind-driven blaze, dubbed the Bond fire, ignited Wednesday night in Orange County and quickly spread to the Silverado Canyon area. By Thursday evening , the fire had exploded to 7,200 acres, spurring mandatory evacuations.
Gales said SCE was working to reduce the length and number of power shutoffs in the region, including isolating parts of the utility’s circuits to minimize the number of customers affected.
“It’s difficult for customers, especially during COVID-19, to have their power shut off,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can before we make the decision to shut off power.”
But those hoping for relief — both from preemptive power shutoffs and from dangerous fire weather — will likely have to wait a bit longer.
“It’s sunny and dry all the way through next Wednesday, with no chance of any rain,” said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
“Longer projections from the Climate Prediction Center indicate continued dryness through about the middle of December,” Sweet added. “At this point, we don’t really see any reliable — or hopeful — signs of rain.”
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