Santa Ana winds expected to fan fire danger

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SAN DIEGO — The gusty winds blowing in parts of San Diego County are expected to weaken to below advisory level Monday morning but will ramp back up later this week and combine with warmer and drier conditions to raise the risk for wildfires.

A National Weather Service wind advisory for the mountains and deserts is set to expire at 10 a.m. Monday. Winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour and gusts to 60 mph near mountain ridge tops, through passes and on desert slopes into adjacent areas are expected to die down later this morning.

Peak wind gusts recorded Sunday reached 54 mph on Mt. Laguna; 47 mph on Volcan Mountain; 42 mph in Harrison Park; 41 mph in Ranchita; 36 mph in Julian and in Borrego Springs; and 35 mph on Palomar Mountain, according to the NWS.

“The strong winds in parts of the mountains and deserts will gradually decrease this morning, but continue quite brisk through tonight,” according to the weather service. “This is all brought to us by a strong jet stream shooting through California, the same one that brought a lot of rain to Northern California the last few days.”

Forecasters said cooler weather, clouds and showers were expected Monday, but much warmer and drier weather is just around the corner. A fire weather watch for the mountains and inland valleys will extend from early Wednesday through Thursday evening.

“Moderate to locally strong Santa Ana winds will likely create very dry, hot and windy conditions Wednesday and Thursday through and below the mountain passes and canyons, along coastal foothills and into portions of the inland valleys,” according to the NWS.

The winds will first effect the Inland Empire, pasts of Orange County and other areas before moving into San Diego County. Northeast winds of 15 to 30 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph will be possible throughout the watch period, forecasters said.

The winds are expected to weaken Thursday night into Friday, but weather service officials said hot and dry weather could persist on Friday. Any fires that do develop will likely spread rapidly and outdoor burning is not advised.