• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Santa Ana wind event ramps up through Thanksgiving in Southern California

ByPatricia S. Stevens

Nov 24, 2022

A fresh round of Santa Ana winds in Southern California will renew the threat of wind damage and wildfires, according to AccuWeather forecasters.

The threat comes just days after the region’s first Santa Ana events of the season, when wind gusts topped 100 miles per hour.

With strong winds expected around Thanksgiving — they will pick up Wednesday night and continue through early Friday — holiday travel and outdoor events like parades or soccer games could be affected.

The winds are being driven into the Great Basin by a high pressure area, which is driving Southern California winds offshore. As the winds move to the lower elevations, they become more intense and warmer, increasing the hazards to motorists and property.

“The winds can uproot trees and power lines and create difficult driving conditions, particularly for high-profile vehicles,” said John Gresiak, AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist.

Wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph are common in the preferred Santa Ana areas of Southern California, with gusts of up to 85 mph possible. The strongest winds occur on Thanksgiving Day.

Compared to last week, this event will be moderate, with the strongest gusts expected to stay on higher ground and under ravines and passes.

“The combination of high winds and dry air also increases the risk of fire,” Gresiak added.

Some of the most damaging fires in California history have occurred during and after offshore wind events in the late summer and fall months, including during the Santa Ana events. Despite some rain earlier this month, dry areas and fuel for wildfires remain, including in the form of dead scrub and leaves. According to the US Drought Monitor, over 40 percent of the state has been in a state of extreme drought as of Tuesday.

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“It hasn’t rained since the last events in Santa Ana last week, so the fuels have continued to dry up,” said Heather Zehr, senior weather forecaster at AccuWeather.

The event will usually end on Thursday evening, but not for everyone.

“Winds should ease Thursday evening but some stronger gusts may continue into Friday morning, particularly over the southern mountain ranges,” Zehr added. These southern mountain ranges are the mountains in San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

Tall palm trees sway in the wind early Wednesday, November 16, 2022 in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The expectation that lighter winds will return on Friday is good news for many as Friday is traditionally a busy day for Christmas shopping.

AccuWeather forecasters say a large, cool storm hitting the Pacific Northwest over the weekend could move south through California and bring some rain and mountain snow to Southern California next week.

Another storm system could follow mid to late in the week. While precipitation amounts may not be significant, each precipitation decreases the risk of wildfires when the next event occurs in Santa Ana.

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