Red flag warning in effect as gusty Santa Ana winds blow through East County

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Gusty Santa Ana winds will buffet East County mountain peaks again Monday amid red flag and high wind warnings from the National Weather Service.

The red flag warning, which denotes the existence of critical fire weather due to strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity, was issued for San Diego County’s inland valleys and mountains, including the Palomar and Descanso ranger districts of the Cleveland National Forest, the NWS said. The high wind warning was issued for roughly the same areas but also included Escondido, Poway, San Marcos, Julian and Pine Valley.

Both warnings were set to expire at 7 p.m. Monday.

In preparation for the wildfire conditions, San Diego Gas and Electric shut off power to about 2,000 customers in the North County and East County highlands. The restoration of electricity in those areas was expected to coincide with the expiration of the warnings at 7 this evening.

Urban areas of the county were not expected to see such strong winds, but in the mountains and valleys where the fire and wind warnings were in effect, forecasters expect northeast Santa Ana winds to range between 25 and 35 miles per hour today with some isolated gusts topping out at 75 mph. The strongest winds will blow through passes and canyons where motorists, especially those driving high-profile vehicles, should be extra cautious.

Humidity levels will dip as low as 8 to 12 percent during the day, forecasters said. Humidity levels Tuesday could be as low as today, but with less fire danger because of weaker winds.

High temperatures today will be around 82 to 87 degrees at the beaches, 88 inland, 89 in the western valleys, 77 to 82 near the foothills, 63
to 72 in the mountains and 79 to 84 in the deserts.

The NWS warned that “any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly.” The U.S. Forest Service’s Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index indicated a moderate chance of Santa Ana-driven wildfires Monday and said that upon ignition, “fires will grow rapidly and will be difficult to control.”

“The recent rains have moderated fuel conditions since December, but there will still be an elevated risk for large fires which will be difficult to control,” according to the threat index, which listed San Diego County as the area in Southern California most at risk for a wildfire today.

The NWS urged people to avoid outdoor burning for the duration of the hazardous weather, and also warned that high winds will make driving difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles. The winds should start to die down on Tuesday, and humidity will recover slightly Tuesday and Wednesday, the NWS said.

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