What to Know
- Southern California will face powerful wind gusts during the weekend and into early next week
- The dry, windy weather raised the risk of wildfires and threatened containment lines around the Saddleridge Fire
- Proactive power shutoffs to prevent energized power lines from sparking wildfires are possible in some areas
Strong howling gusts that tore branches off trees and left debris scattered in streets overnight marked the start of a series of windy days in Southern California.
Powerful winds are in the forecast for some areas during the weekend and into early next week, raising the threat of quick-spreading wildfires and the possibility of power shutoffs for some high-risk areas.
"We're going to see several rounds of wind," said NBC4 forecaster Shanna Mendiola.
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After calm conditions and an onshore flow to start the week, strong winds picked up Thursday. Overnight winds posed a challenge for firefighters tackling the Saddleridge Fire in the northern San Fernando Valley. The fire was 68-percent contained Friday, when it had burned about 8,400 acres.
"Windy conditions last night tested containment lines," the LA County Fire Department said in a statement.
The fire started Oct. 10 in Sylmar and burned into the communities of Porter Ranch and Granada Hills. Patrols are deployed in the area to watch for smoldering debris and possible flare-ups.
On Thursday night, a wind-driven fire burned hundreds of acres near Gaviota in Santa Barbara County, forcing a closure of Highway 101 and evacuations.
Santa Ana winds fanned flames late last week during the worst wildfires of the season in Southern California, including the Saddleridge Fire and the Sandalwood Fire in Riverside County. The infamous winds, produced by surface high pressure over the Great Basin squeezing air down through canyons and passes in Southern California's mountain ranges, will return Sunday and stick around into early next week.
"The winds are going to transition day by day, so (Friday) and (Saturday) we are expecting a north wind for those valley spots," Mendiola said. "Then we get to Sunday, and that's when that wind turns northeast to southwest, which is an offshore wind to heat temperatures up."
Temperatures will be above-normal Monday, reaching into the low 90s and adding to the fire danger.
Proactive power shutoffs are possible in parts the Southern California Edison service area. The utility company announced that it may cut power to areas in high-risk fire zones, where downed power lines can spark fast-moving wildfires.
Shutoffs were being considered Thursday in the following communities.
Kern County (2,041 customers)
- Unincorporated areas including Camp Owens, Kernville, Lake Isabella, Wofford Heights, near Tehachapi Willow Springs Road, Weldon, Onyx, and Canebrake
Los Angeles County (4,218 customers)
- Palmdale, Palmdale Map 1, Palmdale Map 2, Palmdale Map 3
- Unincorporated areas including Sierra Highway, Little Rock, Sun Villiage, Acton, Castaic and Chatsworth
Orange County (2,007 customers)
- Yorba Linda
Riverside County (891 customers)
- Unincorporated areas including Cabazon, Mons, Banning Pass, Owl and portions of Desert Hills Outlet Mall
Santa Barbara County (6,702 customers)
- Santan Barbara
- Unincorporated areas including Cold Springs Canyon, Gaviota, Jalama Beach, Mission Canyon Map 1, Mission Canyon Map 2, Hwy 154, El Capitan Park, Montecito, Summerland, Mibek Rd., Sterrett Ave. and Foothill Ave.
Ventura County (419 customers)
- Unincorporated areas near Highway 33 Los Padres National Forest and Simi Valley including unincorporated areas of Santa Susana Mountains
Fall is historically one of the most dangerous times of the year for wildfires in California. Seven of the state's 10-most destructive wildfires occurred in October -- many fueled by monster winds, including Santa Ana gusts.