LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Powerful Santa Ana winds raked much of the Southland Wednesday night and into Thanksgiving morning — knocking out power to thousands and forcing them to scramble to change their holiday plans — downing trees and creating conditions ripe for wildfires.
In order to reduce the risk that wind-damaged electrified power lines could spark a wildfire, Southern California Edison imposed Public Safety Power Shutoffs, cutting electricity to thousands of customers.
As of 7:30 a.m. Thursday, 57,156 SCE customers were without power across the Southland. They included 19,794 in Riverside County, 15,757 in Los Angeles County, 8,624 in San Bernardino County and 2,535 in Orange County.
Another 148,210 SCE customers are at risk of power shutoffs.
Just before 1 a.m. Thursday, the strong winds knocked a large tree down onto a home in North Hollywood near Fair Avenue and Califa Street. The tree went into the living room and kitchen area. It also hit the driveway fence of an adjacent home. No one was hurt.
“Watching TV, and the first thing we heard was an explosion of his power line…and then a second later, I heard the tree, sounded like it was going over, and I heard a big crash and a boom,” said a neighbor of the house that was damaged.
In Malibu early Thursday morning, a tree came down onto a power line at Kanan Dume Road and the Pacific Coast Highway, forcing the closure of one lane of the PCH while crews responded and conducted repairs.
The gusty Santa Ana winds coupled with extremely low humidity have prompted a red flag warning through 6 p.m. Friday for much of L.A. and Ventura counties, inland Orange County and the Inland Empire.
“Stay safe everybody, the winds are gonna be with us here for awhile. Be vigilant, be on guard, and call 911 if you see or smell a fire,” Orange County Fire Authority PIO Sean Doran told reporters Wednesday night as winds gusted around him.
Many fire agencies, including the L.A. County Fire Department, have pre-deployed strike teams that will be ready to pounce should a fire start.
High wind advisories are in place until 3 p.m. Thursday in the L.A. County Mountains, Santa Monica Mountains Recreational Area and the Santa Clarita Valley, in the San Fernando Valley, and in the San Gabriel Valley and the coastal area, including downtown Los Angeles.
The National Weather Service reported wind gusts at 77 mph in Deer Creek Canyon at 1:50 a.m., at 76 mph at Boney Mountain, 73 mph in Escondido Canyon, 71 mph in Malibu Hills and 67 mph in Burbank.
Forecasters said humidity levels will plummet Thursday afternoon, falling as low as 5%, creating dry conditions that can dramatically elevate the risk of dangerous wildfires.
“The combination (of) very gusty winds and very low relative humidity over a sufficient period of time will create red flag conditions for most of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, primarily Wednesday through Thanksgiving,” according to the NWS.
“Although winds will be weaker on Friday, the very low humidities combined with occasionally gusty northeast winds will continue these critical conditions through Friday afternoon.”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)