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Santa Ana winds, red flag warnings expected in mountain areas

November 3, 2012 |  2:37 pm

The National Weather Service could issue red flag warnings for large swaths of Southern California as early as Saturday night if Santa Ana winds kick up in bone-dry mountain areas as expected.

Much of the region, including as far south as San Diego County, is under a fire watch and a more serious red flag warning for potential wildfires could be issued soon, said Scott Sukup, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard. He said a red flag warning could be issued for the mountains in Santa Clarita by 7 p.m. Saturday night.

“It’s going to be pretty breezy," Sukup said, predicting winds of 15-25 miles per hour with gusts up to 40 mph. "It’s also going to be very dry because we have these offshore Santa Ana winds.”

He said that in the Los Angeles County area, these conditions could persist through Monday. Robert Balfour, a senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in San Diego, said his office could issue a red flag warning for mountain and foothill areas in San Diego, Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino counties starting at 7 p.m. Sunday.

One criteria for a red flag warning is winds of about 25 mph with gusts of more than 35 mph, he said. Another is a relative humidity of under 15%. Balfour said both those conditions are expected to be met in areas that include the San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests, though he said lower valleys and coastal areas should be spared because they’ve benefited from a recent marine layer.

“It’s quite dry in the mountains as far as the fuels are concerned. They are in critical condition,” Balfour said. “The relative humidity right now in the mountains is already below 15%, but we don’t have the winds blowing yet.”


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-- Hector Becerra