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More than 78,000 Southern California Edison customers lose power as high winds increase wildfire risk

A transmission tower in Los Angeles.
Southern California Edison has shut off power to more than 78,000 customers, including more than 17,900 in Los Angeles County, to help prevent strong Santa Ana winds from sparking wildfires.
(Robyn Beck / AFP/ Getty Images)

Southern California Edison shut off power to more than 78,500 customers on Tuesday, with an additional 250,000 at risk of losing their electricity as the utility company tries to prevent strong Santa Ana winds from sparking wildfires.

The customers whose power has already been cut include more than 17,900 in Los Angeles County, 18,600 in Riverside County and 28,800 in Ventura County.

The possible shutoffs include customers in Ventura, L.A., San Bernardino, Orange, Kern, Santa Barbara, Riverside and Tulare counties.

A red flag warning for high fire risk will remain in place for much of L.A. County until 10 p.m. Tuesday. A wind advisory in effect until 4 a.m. Wednesday warns that strong winds with gusts up to 70 mph will continue in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys.

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“Vegetation is so dry and winds are so strong that any new fire can grow really big, really fast,” said Ryan Kittell, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

As winds in the Santa Clarita Valley reached 71 mph on Tuesday, firefighters reported a brush fire had started off Towsley Canyon Road south of Santa Clarita just after 3 p.m. As of 7 p.m., it was 122 acres and 10% contained, fire officials said.

Other small fires ignited throughout California on Tuesday, including the 43-acre 72 fire in Riverside County, the 685-acre Wolf fire in Kern County and the 23-acre Manzanita fire in Madera County.

In the San Gabriel Mountains, winds reached 86 mph and in the San Fernando Valley, gusts peaked at 50 mph, Kittle said.

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In Ventura County, winds whipped up to 95 mph, with power outages and downed trees likely in places, the weather service said in a tweet

One Alaska Airlines flight en route to Ontario was diverted to Los Angeles International Airport due to the high winds, the airline said. Some cargo flights were also diverted.

Kittle said neither the major metropolitan areas of L.A. County nor the coastal areas will see “too much wind.”

L.A. County Fire Department spokesman Christopher Thomas said staffing has been increased, with strike teams stationed in Santa Clarita and North Hollywood.

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“These are the areas where we can respond the fastest with the greatest number of people,” Thomas said.

Winds are expected to peak through Tuesday evening, then weaken significantly.

Orange County officials on Tuesday closed the COVID-19 vaccination site at the Disneyland Resort due to high winds. The site is expected to stay closed through Thursday.

Santa Ana winds aren’t uncommon in January, but the fire danger is particularly high because of the scarcity of rain so far this season. The entire state is in drought, according to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Times staff writers Paul Duginski and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde contributed to this report.


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