Gusty winds: Thousands lose power, schools close and CHP warns big rigs off road

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – San Diego remained under a red flag warning for extreme fire danger Thursday, and some schools were closed as parts of the county had power shut off as a wildfire precaution against gusty winds.

Thursday morning, around 73,000 residents were affected by the blackouts, with another roughly 22,000 still under consideration for shutoffs. By 4 p.m., the utility had restored power to approximately 14,000 customers, leaving a out 59,000 blacked out. San Diegans can check a full, updating list of affected communities on San Diego Gas & Electric’s website.

As of 7:15 a.m. Thursday, peak wind gusts had reached 95 mph on Big Black Mountain in Mesa Grande, followed by 93 mph at Sill Hill, 84 mph in Hellhole Canyon and 77 mph in Boulder Creek, Horse Launch and Hauser Mountain, according to the National Weather Service.

In Alpine, California Highway Patrol was turning away certain high-profile vehicles — such as RVs, buses and big rigs — on Interstate 8, for fear they might be toppled by the wind. Both east and westbound traffic was closed to the large vehicles between Willows Road and Imperial Highway.

The following school districts were closed Thursday due to the precautionary power outages:

  • Alpine Union
  • Dehesa
  • Warner Unified

The following schools in Poway Unified School District were closed for the same reason:

  • Pomerado Elementary
  • Garden Elementary
  • Painted Rock Elementary
  • Meadowbrook Middle
  • Abraxas High
  • Poway High

And the following schools in Cajon Valley Union School District were closed due to both outages and the continued fight against the Willow Fire, which burned more than two dozen acres in the Rancho San Diego area overnight:

  • Hillsdale Middle
  • Jamacha Elementary
  • Rancho San Diego Elementary
  • Vista Grande Elementary

Both Eucalyptus Hills and Lakeside Farms in the Lakeside Union School District were also closed because of the outages.

“School district leadership and the San Diego County Office of Education will continue to monitor the situation and consult with local fire and utility representatives,” the San Diego County Office of Education said in a statement.

Humidity levels dipping below 10%, sustained 30-plus-mph winds and gusts of 60 mph or higher will create “extremely critical” combustion hazards Thursday in local mountain communities into the early afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Affected highland areas include those east of Chula Vista, El Cajon, Escondido and Fallbrook.

The warning was effective from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 10 p.m. Saturday for local inland valley and highland areas. The most intensive critical fire- weather conditions were expected to last through Friday morning, meteorologists advised.

Due to the wildfire warning, San Diego Gas & Electric on Tuesday notified about 88,700 of its customers in inland communities that they could be subject to public-safety power shutoffs from Wednesday night into the weekend, and potentially through Monday.

A brush fire broke out in the unincorporated Rancho San Diego area near El Cajon late Wednesday and blackened 30 acres. The Willow Fire was 50% contained as of 6:30 a.m. Thursday, and authorities announced progress of the flames had been stopped.

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