Santa Ana winds whip county, fan fire danger


SAN DIEGO – Strong Santa Ana winds continued blowing in the San Diego area Wednesday, along with a chance of showers throughout the county.

A rise in relative humidity allowed Tuesday’s red flag warning for extreme fire danger to expire at 10 p.m., but another blustery day is expected Wednesday, with eastern winds of 25 to 35 mph and gusts up to 50 mph in the valleys, according to the National Weather Service.

Wednesday morning, many big rigs had pulled over to the side of Interstate 8 east of Alpine rather than continuing on toward Pine Valley where they risked the possibility of being blown over, Heather Lake reported. Drivers of large, “high profile” vehicles, such as big rigs and recreational vehicless, were advised to avoid Interstate 8, from Alpine to the Imperial County line, during the duration of the gusty conditions.

The coastal areas will see winds of 15 to 25 mph and gusts to 40 mph, while the mountains will see winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts up to 45 mph. That compares to Tuesday, when wind gusts in the mountains peaked at 77 mph. Winds will weaken by about 10 mph into the evening in all those areas, becoming light by Thursday.

The winds prompted the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to close a COVID-19 testing site at Aquatica on Tuesday and Wednesday. A test site in Vista at the Northgate Market was also closed Wednesday because of high winds.

The mountains, coast and valleys have a 50% chance of measurable precipitation by Wednesday evening, with showers likely in the mountains overnight.

On Tuesday, the blustery conditions sent trees and utility standards toppling throughout Ramona, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. One of the downed power poles forced a closure of Hanson Lane between Barnett and San Vicente roads, the agency reported.

The National Weather Service reported local gusts as high as 77 mph in the East County — at Big Black Mountain and Hellhole Canyon — and 46 mph closer to the coast, at the U.S.-Mexico border in Otay Mesa.

Other wind-related problems included an overturned big rig on Interstate 8, near state Route 79 in Descanso, and a large fallen tree limb blocking an eastbound lane on state Route 94, in the area of Lucky Six Truck Trail in Dulzura, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officials with San Diego Gas & Electric said they were closely monitoring the situation and preparing for an emergency response in case their power grid wound up impacted. The utility urged locals to help prevent outages by removing dead trees and overhanging branches near structures, and securing patio furniture, loose yard objects, roofs, balconies, tarps, pool covers and Mylar balloons, which can cause blackouts if they come into contact with electrical-transmission equipment.

A flash flood watch remained in effect until Wednesday night for the lower deserts.

The Weather Service also predicted rip currents and other ocean hazards, including dangerous boating conditions for the inner and outer coastal waters, through Wednesday.

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