Extreme fire danger forces more power outages, school closures

SAN DIEGO -- Seven rural school districts as well as two campuses in San Diego County were closed Wednesday, and around 16,400 utility customers remained without power, as the region remained under a red flag warning denoting a strong risk of wildfire.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the county mountains, valleys and coastal areas until 5 Wednesday afternoon in light of winds expected to blow east to northeast at between 25 to 35 mph, with gusts near 60 mph possible near the coastal mountain slopes.

Humidity levels will drop to around 5 percent in the valleys, inland coastal areas and coastal mountain slopes, according to the NWS.

As of 9 a.m., around 16,400 San Diego Gas & Electric customers remained without power either because of planned safety outages or unplanned outages due to high winds, according to SDG&E.

Read SDG&E's FAQ on red flag warning power outages

"With about 1,200 miles of power lines to inspect, restoring power to all customers will be a long process," the utility said on its website. "SDG&E crews and contract firefighters started ground patrols of power lines (Wednesday) morning to ensure they are safe and free of debris."

On Tuesday, amid peak wind conditions, around 30,000 SDG&E customers in the Boulevard, Descanso, Campo, Julian, Ramona, Buckman Springs, Lake Wohlford, Pine Valley, Santa Ysabel, Olivenhain, Valley Center, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Escondido, San Marcos and Rancho Bernardo areas were without power, according to SDG&E.

School closures due to the precautionary power-down involved campuses in the Jamul-Dulzura School District, Julian Union School District, Julian Union High School District, Mountain Empire Unified School District, Rancho Santa Fe School District, Spencer Valley School District and Valley Center- Pauma Unified School District.

Del Lago Academy in the Escondido Union High School District and Solana Santa Fe School in the Solana Beach School District were also closed, according to the San Diego County Office of Education.

The county office tweeted Wednesday afternoon that all of the schools were expected to re-open Friday, some with late starts:

A half-dozen resource centers are open until 6 p.m. for residents affected by the outages. Residents can get water and snacks, charge their phones and get updated information on outages at the resources center located at:

-- Mountain Empire High School Gymnasium, 3305 Buckman Springs Road, Campo;

-- Potrero Resource Center, 24550 Highway 94, Potrero;

-- Camp Oliver Lodge, 8761 Riverside Drive, Descanso;

-- Golden Acorn Casino & Travel Center, 1800 Golden Acorn Way, Campo;

-- Whispering Winds Catholic Camp, 17606 Harrison Park Road, Julian; and

-- Dulzura Community Center, 1136 Community Building Road, Dulzura.

Water trucks will be sent to the locations in Mountain Empire, Dulzura, Descanso and Julian to provide water for residents with livestock.

High temperatures were forecast at 72 to 78 degrees near the coast and inland, 76 to 81 degrees in the western valleys, 69 to 74 near the foothills, 57 to 65 in the mountains and 70 to 75 in the deserts.

Vegetation across the county is extremely dry, creating the potential for fast-moving wildfires that will be difficult to control, according to the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index.

With the heightened fire danger, authorities recommended that residents avoid outdoor burning and have emergency preparedness kits in order.

In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Woolsey Fire has scorched 97,620 acres since it broke out Thursday and was 47 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, with full containment expected Sunday. The fire has destroyed at least 483 structures and Cal Fire projected full containment of the blaze won't come until Sunday.

Areas of strong and gusty Santa Ana winds will continue into the afternoon, but the winds are expected to weaken Wednesday evening, NWS forecasters said.