31K SDG&E customers warned of potential outages as Santa Ana winds set to return


SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Santa Ana winds will make a return to the region Wednesday, bringing potential power outages to as more than 31,000 SDG&E customers and creating dangerous fire conditions that are expected to continue into Thursday.

A red flag warning of severe wildfire threat will take effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday for San Diego County inland valleys and mountains. The warning will remain in place until noon Thursday.

The utility called potential shutoffs “a last resort to protect public safety and reduce wildfire risk.”

After more than nine months of a pandemic, the potential for losing power is less than ideal for businesses like Smokin J’s BBQ in Poway. 

“This might be the worst time that it could’ve ever been,” Chef Jonathan Fox said. “Due to everything going on right now, we were pre-selling a lot of our menu for people to enjoy during the holidays.”

Fox said losing power for even a day can be an issue with the amount of food they have that requires refrigeration. The restaurant has been in this position before during a previous power outage warning. Finding a generator in a pinch was nearly impossible, he said.

With a busy week of holiday meals, Fox says a great relationship with their meat vendor is making way for a backup plan. 

“He said worse comes to worse, you call me up and I can get you one of my refrigerated trucks,” he said. “I’ll bring it on out and put your walk in inside of it for the time being.”

Shutoffs could happen starting on Wednesday and potentially would last until Friday depending on the weather and damage to company equipment, SDG&E said in a news release Tuesday.

Potentially impacted communities include Alpine, Boulevard, Campo, Campo Reservation, Chula Vista, Cuyapaipe Reservation, Descanso, El Cajon, Escondido, Julian, La Jolla Reservation, La Posta Reservation, Los Coyotes Reservation, Manzanita Reservation, Mesa Grande Reservation, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Reservation, Pauma Valley, Pine Valley, Potrero, Poway, Ramona, Ranchita, Rincon Reservatio, San Pasqual Reservation, Santa Ysabel, Santa Ysabel Reservation, Sycuan Reservation, Valley Center and Warner Springs.

“We understand the last thing our customers want to hear is that they may lose power given the holiday and COVID pandemic,” the company said. “Our meteorology team is closely monitoring the weather circuit by circuit, and it’s our hope that Mother Nature will cooperate and conditions will change, eliminating or reducing the need for safety power shutoffs.”

Fox says the kindness from others within the food industry has been on full display during the pandemic. 

“Our industry is having a rough go of it right now and it’s really bringing everybody together,” he said. “We’re all just trying to help each other out.”

Forecasters said affected areas will see east to northeast winds of 15 to 25 mph, with some areas expected to get hit with gusts of 50 to 60 mph, with humidity dropping to between 7 and 12%.

“The winds will peak tomorrow (Wednesday) night, then weaken on Thursday,” according to the National Weather Service. “The very low relative humidity and strong easterly winds will create critical fire weather conditions inland through Thursday morning, before winds weaken and humidity increases.

“Humidity will surge over the higher terrain on Thursday, and there may even be some light precipitation. Fair, with lighter winds on Friday, then increasing onshore flow will build the marine layer over the weekend ahead of a winter storm system slated to bring widespread wetting rain and mountain snow by Monday.”

According to forecasters, the red flag warning means there is a potential for rapid fire spread should a blaze erupt, along with “extreme fire behavior.”

San Diego Weather News

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