Power Shutoffs Begin for Thousands, Schools Close as Santa Ana Winds Move In

A red flag warning will be in effect from 4 a.m. Monday through 10 p.m. Tuesday in the mountains and the western valleys

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San Diego Gas & Electric cut power to thousands of customers Monday afternoon while tens of thousands more were at risk of similar shutoffs due to gusty Santa Ana winds.

More than 15,000 customers have had their power shut off amid San Diego County's latest wind event, which was expected to stretch through Wednesday, elevating the threat of wildfires. The affected communities include:

  • Alpine
  • Campo Reservation
  • Descanso
  • Escondido
  • Jamul
  • Julian
  • La Jolla Reservation
  • La Posta Reservation
  • Mesa Grande Reservation
  • Pala
  • Palomar Mountain
  • Pauma Reservation
  • Pauma Valley
  • Ramona
  • Rincon Reservation
  • San Pasqual Reservation
  • Santa Ysabel
  • Santa Ysabel Reservation
  • Valley Center
  • Yuima Reservation

The utility company announced over the weekend that 50,483 were notified of the possible power shutoffs, which could occur at any time from Monday to Wednesday, and said its staff "remains on high alert and stands prepared" for anything Mother Nature may have in store for the county.

In anticipation of the continued high winds and loss of power, school officials in the Alpine Union, Valley Center-Pauma Unified and Warner Unified school districts canceled classes on Tuesday, officials said. In addition, the Mountain Empire Unified School District "will offer asynchronous learning, where students may work independently reading, watching pre-recorded lessons, or doing assignments, projects, or online activities (where power is available)," school representatives said.

Gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity will significantly raise the risk of wildfires in the San Diego County mountains and western valleys Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather agency issued a red flag warning that will be in effect from 4 a.m. Monday through 10 p.m. Tuesday in the mountains and the western valleys.

A high wind warning will also be in effect from 6 p.m. Monday through noon Tuesday in those two areas.

NBC 7 Meteorologist Crystal Eggers explains the phenomenon behind Santa Ana Winds when they roll through San Diego County.

“Eventually we’re going to see things get better as we approach the weekend but for now, we’re going to be dealing with some high winds in the forecast and also fire danger," NBC 7 meteorologist Sheena Parveen said.

Humidity levels will drop to around 10%, with poor recovery expected overnight.

“That’s critically low," Parveen said. "That’s very dry and that’s because of those offshore Santa Ana winds blowing in that dry air.”

Winds out of the east were expected to be between 30-40 mph, with gusts potentially reaching 60 mph in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service. The strongest winds were expected Tuesday morning, weakening slightly into the afternoon.

The red flag warning means that outdoor burning should be avoided because any fires that develop will spread rapidly, according to the NWS. The high wind warning advises that the gusty conditions may knock down trees or power lines, and travel will be difficult for high profile vehicles in wind-prone areas.

Conditions are expected to warm up Tuesday and Wednesday, then temperatures will drop slightly on Thursday and Friday, forecasters said.

In preparation of the elevated fire risk, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department announced it is increasing its staffing until 8 p.m. Tuesday.

SDFD added two water tenders, five brush engines and two firefighting helicopters as a precaution. The department said if conditions seem perilous as the day progresses, the extra staffing will be extended.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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