Santa Ana winds raise wildfire risk

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SAN DIEGO — Gusty Santa Ana winds in San Diego County’s mountains and inland valleys, combined with low humidity, were expected to raise the risk for wildfires over a roughly 24-hour span starting Sunday evening, forecasters said Saturday.

Red Flag and high wind warnings are set to go into effect for the mountains and valleys at 8 p.m. Sunday. The high wind warning will run until noon the following day, and the Red Flag Warning will extend through 8 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Sustained northeast winds of up to 30 miles per hour will be likely throughout the watch periods along with gusts that could reach 65 mph, according to the NWS. Daytime relative humidities as low as 5 percent will add to the wildfire risk.

Forecasters said the northeast winds would develop as a surface high pressure system builds into the Great Basin behind a significant cold front. Very dry conditions will also develop, with humidity values expected to remain in the single digits both days.

“A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will contribute to extreme fire behavior,” according to the warning.

The winds are expected to weaken Monday afternoon, but could remain close to advisory thresholds into Tuesday, forecasters said. Low humidities are also expected to persist into Tuesday.

In addition to increasing the risk for wildfires, the gusty wind could also lead to hazardous driving conditions, especially for motorists driving high profile vehicles. Forecasters advised drivers to be on the lookout for blowing dust and downed tree limbs.