Whitney Southwick's Noon Forecast for Thursday Dec. 1, 2011
Strong, damaging winds that have flipped trees and trucks in Los Angeles could blow into San Diego County Thursday evening, according to forecasters.
The Santa Ana winds blasting through California are some of the worst seen here in years, knocking out power to more than 300,000 California customers. A 97-mph gust was recorded at Whitaker Peak.
The winds moved inland early Thursday and started to head towards San Diego County.
“The bigger question is when the wind will arrive,” said meteorologist Jodi Kodesh. “We are waiting for the dynamics to shift and the momentum to come from the Northeast. This will create a funneling effect through our passes and canyons.”
That will cause gusty conditions all the way to the coastline.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a wind advisory for our coastal areas and inland valleys in effect through Friday at 10 a.m. The NWS issued a high wind warning for the mountains, but later downgraded the warning to an advisory.
“We had a couple of lightning strikes this morning near Descanso, though any rain with this system was very light,” Kodesh said.
Firefighters ramped up staffing levels as forecasters expected gusts of strengths we haven’t seen since 2007.
"Fires can burn during the winter months even when temperatures are low,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director. “With the strong winds forecasted the fire danger will increase in many areas and we will have extra firefighters on duty so that we can respond to any new wildfires that may ignite.”
Fire ravaged much of San Diego County in 2007, and although conditions this week are not as hot and dry, firefighters are still keeping a close eye on the county.
Especially on areas that didn’t burn.
“Our main areas of concern are really countywide, but we do look at areas that have not burned in several years which have large fuel beds,” said Capt. Mohler.
The county created a “Fire Hazard Severity Zoning” map that shows which areas they’re most concerned about.
One of the areas is off Interstate 8 towards Buckman Springs and down to the U.S./Mexico border. The area hasn’t burned since the old Laguna Fire burn in 1970, according to Cal Fire.
Another area that has little fire history in the last 30 years is the backside of Palomar Mountain coming up Highway 79, according to Cal Fire.
The third area of concern is coming down Interstate-15 out of Temecula.
The map (seen below) shows the zones considered a “very high” hazard in red, “high” hazard in orange and “moderate” hazard in yellow. Click here for a larger version.