January 18, 2022

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SoCal weather: Thousands without power as fierce winds fuel potential wildfire threat for 17 million people

2 min read

The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for parts of multiple counties, including San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura — collectively affecting more than 17 million people through Friday afternoon.

Winds as high as 74 mph swept through the Los Angeles neighborhood of Pacoima on Thursday, the agency said.

“The critical fire weather area encompasses more than 3 million people from Thursday overnight into Friday morning, and this number drops to more than one million for mainly Los Angeles and Ventura counties on Friday,” CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford said. The elevated threat could remain in the region through Sunday, he said.

Red flag warnings are issued when an area experiences conditions ideal for sparking and expanding fires, which may occur when winds are strong, humidity is low and temperatures are warm, the NWS explained.

“If fire ignition occurs, conditions will be favorable for rapid fire spread, long range spotting, and extreme fire behavior which would threaten life and property,” the NWS said.
Nearly 70,000 homes and businesses lost power on Thanksgiving Day, Southern California Edison said. As of early Friday, there were still more than 66,000 SCE customers without power, according to poweroutage.us.

The utility, which serves 5 million customers, said that it cut off the electricity because high winds tend to increase the risk of power lines falling and sparking wildfires. Most of the cutoffs were in Riverside County, which sits east of Los Angeles.

“I’d rather have excess wind and less power than burned out of my house at home,” Carl Pride, a Fontana resident told CNN affiliate KABC. “A minor inconvenience is nothing compared to losing my house,” he said while trying to grab his hat as the strong wind blew it away.
In addition, nearly 6,000 customers of San Diego Power & Electric were without power, according to poweroutage.us. Overall, more than 76,000 customers were without utility power in the region early Friday, according to the website.
In North Hollywood, the strong winds toppled a tree through the roof of a home, causing a minor injury to a resident, KABC reported. Downed trees in some neighborhoods in Orange County also caused damage, the affiliate reported.
California's wildfires show how climate change is making forced evacuations and power shut-offs the norm

CalFire said in a Facebook post it had prepared ahead of Thanksgiving for the risk of wildfires, with resources increased “strategically throughout portions of Southern CA in preparation for the critical fire weather.”

The state’s wildfire season has been devastating so far this year with 8,367 blazes having scorched more than 3 million acres, according to CalFire. The fires have been exacerbated by climate change creating hotter and drier conditions.

On Thursday, crews swiftly put out the Lopez Fire when it was just at half of an acre in Los Angeles and small brush fires.

CNN’s Andy Rose contributed to this report.

2021-11-26 03:05:40

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