The region has not seen the fierce winds that so often accompany these hot, dry weather spells. Santa Barbara County has not been as fortunate. Fire officials there reported gusts of 70 miles per hour during the worst of the wildfire that tore through the exclusive Montecito area overnight. That fire is still burning out of control.
In San Diego, the strongest winds as of 9 a.m. have been near Julian and east off state Route 94 near Potrero and Campo. In those areas, winds have been gusting to between 20 and 25 mph. The National Weather Service has issued a strong wind watch for the county for the entire weekend advising that gusts in the 40 to 50 mph range are possible in our mountains and below the passes.
A high fire danger is present even without the stronger winds, but when they are present the potential for fast spreading wildfires becomes much worse. County firefighters are on standby regardless of the wind situation. Because of the drought conditions, all of Southern California is tinder dry and covered with thousands of acres of open space which, in the case of a fire, becomes a ready supply of fuel that feeds the flames. That and the hilly topography makes even a small brush fire a potential catastrophe.
In addition, during these strong Santa Ana events, the region sees high temperatures and extremely low humidity levels. Friday afternoon, San Diego's East County is expected to see the thermometer reach into at least the low 90s. At the same time, humidity levels could drop below 15%.
The current heat wave isn't expected to break until the middle of next week, though we should be out of the threat of the Santa Ana winds by Monday.