Fierce Santa Ana winds gusting at more than 50 miles per hour swept much of Southern California today as humidity levels dipped sharply, confronting the region with what the National Weather Service called "the most significant fire-weather threat in the past five years."
An NWS red flag warning signifying a high risk of wildfires went into effect Thursday night in Ventura County and all of Los Angeles County except for the Antelope Valley and was to remain in force through Sunday evening.
"A strong Santa Ana wind event will develop over the area (Thursday night) through Friday mid-day, then weaken Saturday afternoon through Sunday, bringing the most significant fire-weather threat in the past five years," warned an NWS advisory.
At the same time, it said, "relative humidity will fall sharply into the mid teens to single digits Friday and by Saturday widespread single-digit humidity will extend from the higher elevations to the lower elevations and then persist through Sunday."
Peak winds -- including gusts of up to 80 miles per hour in the Santa Monica mountains -- will occur this morning and again Saturday morning, the advisory warned. In the San Gabriel Mountains, gusts of 52 mph were recorded overnight at Warm Springs and of 60 mph at Whitaker Peak, according to the NWS.
The Santa Anas will begin to die down Saturday night, and onshore winds will develop Sunday, but that will not ease the risks because "chaotic winds are expected" amid continuing low humidity levels and temperatures 5 to 15 degrees higher than normal, according to the advisory.- City News Service