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High wind and fire danger coming this week

November 29, 2011 |  2:44 pm

High winds may create dangerous fire conditions in Southern California over the next few days, officials warned.

The National Weather Service issued a high-wind and fire watch for Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon, with possible hurricane-speed gusts of 80 mph or more in the mountain passes of Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties, and gusts of more than 60 mph in some lower-lying areas.

It could shape up to be the strongest offshore wind event the region has seen in years, the weather service warned.

The winds are expected to reach their highest intensity Thursday morning, potentially toppling trees and power lines and creating hazardous driving conditions, as well as a significant fire hazard.

"If we do get some fire starts, there's a period from Thursday morning through Thursday afternoon and night when we could have some rapid spread in those fires," said Mark Jackson, meteorologist in charge at the weather service's Oxnard office.

During the devastating California wildfires of October 2007, wind speeds reached more 100 mph, Jackson said. Gusts in some areas could reach those speeds this week, although for a shorter duration.

The conditions in 2007 were drier, but despite last week's heavy rains, the weekend's hot temperatures have dried out much of the dead fuel that had been dampened, Jackson said.

Officials advised travelers to monitor weather reports and proceed with caution.

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-- Abby Sewell

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