The Santa Ana winds behind four major wildfires in Southern California this week will gain strength Thursday, National Weather Service forecasters said.
Red flag warnings denoting the high risk of wildfires were initially scheduled to expire Thursday evening, but that target was later pushed back to Friday night, and on Wednesday afternoon it was delayed once more — this time to Saturday evening.
“An extended moderate to strong Santa Ana wind event will continue over much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties through at least Saturday,” according to an NWS statement.
“The winds are expected to strengthen again overnight (this morning) through Thursday with 18 to 24 hours of strong winds gusting to 50 to 75 miles per hour. This is a significant period,” it added. The wind had been gusting generally at between 35 and 55 mph.
“The winds will then gradually weaken Friday through Saturday” and “there is a chance that offshore and critical conditions will continue through the middle of next week.”
Humidity levels, meanwhile, will remain at between 6 and 12 percent “through at least early next week,” rising to 30 percent during overnight hours.
Red flag warnings are in effect until 8 p.m. Saturday in the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains, the Angeles National Forest; the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel Valleys; L.A. County beach cities, metropolitan Los Angeles, Downtown L.A., the Hollywood Hills and all of Orange County.
In Los Angeles and the valleys, the wind will blow at between 10 and 25 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph.
Red flag warnings are also in effect in Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Various Santa Ana wind warnings are in effect along with the red flag warnings. In mountain and valley areas, a high wind warning indicating 40-mph winds and gusts of 58 mph will be in force until 4 p.m. Friday. “Winds this strong may down trees and power lines, causing property damage or power outages,” warned an NWS statement. “Cross winds can make driving difficult, especially for drivers of high-profile vehicles towing trailers.”
Forecasters urged motorists to exercise an extra measure of caution and be prepared for gusty crosswinds.
The NWS forecast a combination of smoky air and sunny skies in Los Angeles County Thursday and highs of 58 degrees on Mount Wilson; 61 in Palmdale and Lancaster; 71 in Saugus; 72 in Avalon; 77 in Woodland Hills; 78 in Pasadena; 79 in Downtown L.A., San Gabriel, Burbank and at LAX; and 80 in Long Beach.
Sunny skies amid strong Santa Ana winds were forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 73 in Laguna Beach; 75 in San Clemente; 77 in Newport Beach and Yorba Linda; 79 in Fullerton, Anaheim and Mission Viejo; and 80 in Irvine.