Santa Ana winds bring fire danger, precautionary blackouts

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SAN DIEGO — The first Santa Ana wind event of the fall will continue Friday, elevating fire danger and other public-safety concerns in San Diego County.

The National Weather Service issued a “red flag” wildfire warning that will last through 6 p.m. Friday in those two areas. The alert indicates a likelihood of “critical fire weather,” especially in mountain and valley communities, stemming from extremely low humidity and gusty winds.

Cal Fire officials stressed the need for locals to take basic preventative steps, such as avoiding lawn-mowing during high winds; steering vehicles clear of extremely dry vegetation, where sparks might touch off a blaze; limiting campfires to designated places and looking out for suspicious behavior that could be arson-related.

The local threat level over the period was expected to be “moderate,” according to the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index, meaning any wildland blazes that might erupt could be “difficult to control.”

Based on better weather conditions than initially expected, San Diego Gas & Electric lowered its forecast Thursday afternoon of how many customers could be affected by preemptive power-downs to roughly 18,000 homes and businesses — 40% fewer than the original estimate.

About 400 people woke up Friday morning without power:

By shortly after 6 p.m. Friday, power had been restored to all 395 customers who were affected by the public safety power shutoff.

SDG&E said it plans to provide updated notifications to customers within 24 hours of an anticipated power-down, and again within one to four hours of a shut-off, if possible.

Among areas that could be affected are Banner Grade, Boulevard, Campo, Descanso, Alpine, Fallbrook, Julian, Mesa Grande, Mount Laguna, Oak Grove, Palomar Mountain, Pine Valley, Potrero, Rincon, Santa Ysabel, Valley Center, Viejas, Warner Springs and Wynola.

The utility advises those who have received the notification to be prepared by making sure they have such emergency supplies as water, food, flashlights, extra batteries and cellphone battery packs.

Should any precautionary power shut-off last more than 24 hours, the utility plans to open temporary aid centers where customers can get water and snacks, charge their cellphones and get updates.

High temperatures Friday could reach 80 degrees near the coast, 83 inland, 85 in the western valleys, 83 near the foothills, 75 in the mountains and 84 in the deserts.

Temperatures will increase slightly through Saturday, when the winds are expected to be much weaker, according to forecasters.

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