L.A. Now

Southland's Christmas present? Warm weather

As temperatures hovered around freezing across much of the United States on Christmas Day, Southern California basked in unseasonably warm weather as Santa Ana winds pushed hot, dry air across the region.

In Long Beach, the mercury hit 85 degrees, beating the 1972 high of 81 degrees.

In downtown Los Angeles, temperatures reached 82 degrees, making it the second warmest Christmas Day since records began in 1877 and well above the seasonal average of 67 degrees. The record was set in 1980 with a high of 85 downtown.

The hot air was being pushed offshore on winds generated by a high pressure system lingering over the Great Basin and the High Desert, said Bonnie Bartling of the National Weather Service. In the mountains, gusts reached as high as 50 miles per hour.

High temperatures -- An article in the Dec. 26 LateExtra section about warm weather on Christmas Day in Southern California stated that the temperature in Long Beach hit a high of 85 degrees. The temperature peaked at 83 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, beating the 1972 high of 81 degrees. The wrong temperature also appeared in a earlier version of the online headline.

A wind advisory remained in place through Thursday for Los Angeles County mountains, and a red flag warning was in effect for much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties as the combination of low humidity and gusty winds raised concerns about fire dangers.

"If fire ignition occurs, there would be the potential for rapid spread," Bartling said.

A major power outage in Simi Valley on Wednesday morning left thousands of residents without electricity and affected traffic signals at intersections in the area. Southern California Edison attributed the power outage to the winds.

The outage occurred at 9:10 a.m. and mainly affected two circuits, said Southern California Edison spokesman Robert Villegas.

The winds are likely to weaken by late Thursday, but the above average temperatures will continue through the weekend and into next week, Bartling said.

Hot holiday seasons are not uncommon.

"There are many years where I can remember wearing shorts and a tank top on Christmas," Bartling said. "When you have these Santa Ana events, it just warms up."

But this season has been noteworthy for the sudden shifts from hot to cold temperatures.

"We've been flip-flopping a lot this winter," Bartling said.

This current hot spell could break more records before it's through. The forecast for Burbank on Thursday is 82 degrees, one degree short of the record high set in 1947.

Missing from the forecast is any sign of rain. That puts Southern California on track for a very dry year.

There has been less than an inch of rain since July 1, Bartling said. Normally the area would have close to four inches of rain by now. Last year, a dry year, about two and a half inches had fallen by Christmas Day.

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