Power shutoffs hit Southern California as dangerous fire weather returns
Southern California Edison preemptively shut off power to more than 54,000 customers by Monday night as widespread fire weather conditions ramp up across the region.
More than 150,000 additional customers are facing potential shutoffs as well.
The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings — indicating conditions for wildfires to start — in portions of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties through noon Tuesday, with the agency warning residents to be prepared to evacuate.
“Another Santa Ana wind event is expected to begin late tonight and continue through Tuesday evening,” the weather service said Monday. “This is the time to get set with assembling your emergency supply kit and knowing your evacuation route.”
Mountain and foothill areas could see isolated wind gusts as high as 70 mph, the agency said, with coasts and valleys peaking at 55 mph. The strongest winds will occur Monday evening through Tuesday morning and will be met with critically dry vegetation and very low relative humidity.
“If fire ignition occurs,” the Weather Service said, “conditions will be favorable for rapid fire spread, long-range spotting and extreme fire behavior, which would threaten life and property.”
In Orange County, where the Bond fire has seared a path through 7,375 acres and destroyed at least 30 structures, a red flag warning is in effect through 10 p.m. Tuesday. The fire was 70% contained Monday evening, the Orange County Fire Authority said.
Edison spokesman Paul Netter said the utility performs public safety power shutoffs in an effort to prevent the electrical system from acting as a source of ignition for wildfires. In October, the company came under scrutiny for its potential role in the Bobcat fire, which may have been sparked by tree branches striking a power line.
Customers currently without power include 3,300 in Kern County, 8,200 in Los Angeles County, 22,500 in Ventura County, and 17,200 in Riverside County.
More than 150,000 customers in eight counties are under consideration for a power shutoff, including an additional 38,500 in Los Angeles County, 34,500 in San Bernardino County and 13,800 in Ventura County. Residents can enter their address here to determine whether they may be affected.
Just how many customers on alert will actually experience a shutoff depends on the weather, Netter said.
“You can’t really say in advance what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s totally based on conditions. The forecast calls for the winds to be heavier in the afternoon and into tomorrow, so we’re particularly looking at those as the key periods of concern.”
San Diego Gas & Electric Monday night also announced that, due to high winds, it had shut off power to approximately 14,200 customers.
The latest potential shutoffs come on the heels of back-to-back power outages over the last two weeks amid high winds.
La Niña winters are often dry in Southern California, but there are no guarantees
The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued a no-burn alert through Tuesday for areas including Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, warning of possible health problems arising from particles in wood smoke.
“No-burn day alerts are mandatory in order to protect public health when levels of fine particulate air pollution in the region are forecast to be high,” the agency said. Burning wood in fireplaces or any indoor or outdoor wood-burning devices is prohibited during the mandatory wood-burning ban.
No-burn alerts do not apply to mountain communities above 3,000 feet in elevation, or to homes that rely on wood as a sole source of heat.
David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there was no rain on the horizon for at least the next seven days in the region.
The current fire weather conditions are the result of winds from a low-pressure system, heading southwest, meeting with winds from a high-pressure system that’s coming from the east, he said.
“When you have strong winds at every level … that’s an ideal situation for a Santa Ana wind condition that is moderate to strong,” he said. “That’s why we have very gusty winds, very low humidities and high fire danger.”
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