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First Santa Ana wind event of the season brings fire risks, potential outages to Southland

SAN JACINTO, CA - NOVEMBER 24, 2022: Palm trees bend in the wind as powerful winds forced Southern California Edison to shut off the power to the area on Thanksgiving day November 24, 2022 in San Jacinto, California. The power is out in the area of Highway 74 and Vista Place. The San Ana winds will continue through Friday.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Palm trees bend in the wind in the Riverside County city of San Jacinto as powerful winds led Southern California Edison to shut off power to the area in November 2022. Strong Santa Ana winds are forecast to kick up in Southern California late Saturday through Monday night. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The first Santa Ana wind event of the season could bring strong gusts and wildfire danger to Southern California, as well as the potential for power shutoffs.

A red flag warning is in effect for most of Ventura and Los Angeles counties starting early Sunday until late Monday night. Such warnings are issued by the National Weather Service so fire agencies can prepare for possible wildfires.

Forecasters predict strong winds of up to 50-60 mph with isolated gusts of up to 65 mph in some areas.

Read more: What makes the Santa Ana winds blow through Southern California?

Dry and breezy offshore winds will last into Tuesday, which could extend critical fire weather conditions across L.A.

A wind advisory or high wind warning is also in place for most of Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Residents should secure outdoor objects that might blow away and look out for downed trees and power lines, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Sirard.

“Weather-wise, there is a lot going on right now,” said Sirard, who is stationed in Oxnard. “It’s very busy here at the weather office.”

In Northern California, the weather service also issued a red flag warning for portions of the Bay Area for Saturday and Sunday, starting earlier for elevations above 1,000 feet. Gusty offshore winds and relative low humidity will increase critical fire weather conditions for the North Bay, East Bay, Santa Clara hills and mountains and the San Mateo coast.

Read more: Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Santa Ana wind season is back

Southern California Edison's team notified customers that the high winds and dry vegetation could increase the possibility of so-called public safety power shutoffs in order to keep communities safe from fires that are ignited by downed power lines.

"We know that shutoffs significantly affect our customer’s daily lives and create hardships for them," officials said in the announcement. "We’re working to limit the scope of possible shutoffs to only the areas that are facing the highest threat of wildfire and we are taking actions to keep our customers informed."

Read more: Are you ready for a blackout? How Californians can keep their lights on

The utility has notified 150,240 customers that they could be subject to shutoffs from Sunday until Tuesday. If a shutoff is necessary, the utility will try to restore power to customers as soon as it's deemed safe and after crews have inspected power lines.

Santa Anas are easterly winds that develop due to high pressure over the Great Basin area in Utah and Nevada and pass into Southern California. They warm up and accelerate as they pass over the mountains, resulting in strong gusts through the mountain and valley regions.

Read more: What to pack if you might need to evacuate

Californians can keep their power on during the blackouts by buying a backup generator, installing solar panels or powering their homes with electric vehicles.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.