Hurricane-force wind gusts were recorded around San Diego County Monday as local fire crews staffed up in anticipation of 48 hours of extremely dangerous fire conditions.
The red flag warning issued for San Diego County extends from the desert to the ocean and is paired with a high wind warning. The wind warning is scheduled to last through Tuesday evening while the red flag warning will extend to Wednesday evening.
Humidity was expected to drop between 5 and 10 percent from the mountains to the coastline.
Brian D’Agostino, Director of Fire Science and Climate Adaptation said SDG&E is closely monitoring the wind event using 177 weather stations.
“We’ve seen the hurricane-force gusts north of Descanso with gusts already into the mid-80s,” he said. “But we’ve been seeing widespread gusts over 50 all across the backcountry.”
D’Agostino said that’s expected to continue through the night and into Tuesday.
As of 10:33 a.m., gusts of 85 mph were recorded at Sill Hill (south of Julian) with gusts above 60 recorded near Golden Acorn Casino along Interstate 8 and wind gusts above 55 recorded in Alpine and Boulder Creek (west of Lake Cuyamaca).
NBC 7 Meteorologist Dagmar Midcap said the county was experiencing something called a Mountain Wave, which involves wind interacting with a layer of warm air above a cooler surface layer, making the wind stronger and more erratic.
Midcap said those erratic winds should be expected into at least Tuesday afternoon.
Overnight wind speeds were forecasted at around 40 mph in places like Campo, Pine Valley, Julian and Escondido, while overnight temperature dropped below season averages, according to Midcap.
SDG&E suspended service for customers living in Warner Springs, Dulzura, Potrero, Campo, Jamul, Lyons Valley, Barrett Lake, Dehesa, Alpine, Japatul Valley, Buckman Springs, Morena Village, Otay Lake, Otay Mesa, Viejas, Boulder Creek, Pine Valley, Mount Laguna, Valley Center, Pauma Valley, Santa Ysabel, Lake Henshaw, Ramona, San Diego Country Estates, Wynola, Live Oak Springs, Boulevard, and Julian/Kentwood in the Pines areas as a safety precaution.
Among the communities impacted is a tight-knit neighborhood Ramona Trails Drive that was devastated by the Witch Creek Fire in 2007.
Vietnam Vet and double-amputee Ron Slade and his wife were huddled around a tiny TV Monday night, keeping to the basics as their generator powered their house.
The Slades can use their stove to cook but have no running water. Despite the modest living conditions, Rod still had a sense of humor.
"As long as I can wake up quick enough to get my legs on, I'm alright," he joked.
The Slades estimate they had wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour at times Monday.
They didn't have to consult the NWS. They could hear the wind picking up rocks from the driveway and throwing them into their garage.
SDG&E dispatched a large, one megawatt generated to the Julian community to help serve the businesses in the downtown area, D’Agostino said.
Several San Diego County school districts are keeping students at home Tuesday in response to the utility's power shutoff.
The National Weather Service is forecasting strong Santa Ana winds through Tuesday. Read details about the red flag warning here.
Explosive fire growth is possible with any fire starts.
At 11:30 a.m. SDG&E shut off power to customers in Clairemont, Bay Park and Morena as a precaution but then restored service by 1 p.m.
On Sunday, a small brush fire threatened homes in the populated Otay Ranch neighborhood of Chula Vista. Fire officials said no homes were damaged. The cause of the fire is under investigation but one battalion chief said it's believed to be arson.
A Fallbrook man was spotted near the start of a 5-acre brush fire Sunday that started behind Daniel's Market and jumped the road into some trees. One outbuilding was destroyed and the man was arrested on charges of arson.