Southern California residents are starting off the week in the dark as near-hurricane-force winds batter the state, whipping the flames of two wildfires and raising the risk of new ones.
Edison International began shutting power in parts of Los Angeles County early Monday, warning that almost 160,000 homes and businesses in three counties may eventually lose electricity. Wind warnings stretch across almost the entire state.
Southern California may get gusts of up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour from Santa Ana winds that are expected to gain strength overnight and into Tuesday. Red-flag fire warnings extend north almost as far as Redding as a low-pressure system sweeps down, driving dry winds along with it. More than three-quarters of the state is in drought, and rain and snow in Northern California are 30% to 40% below normal, exacerbating the threat of blazes.
“It’s unusual to have a red flag warning in December,” said Craig Shoemaker, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento. “It is very unusual pattern for this time of year.”
Two fires in the state have ripped through more than 8,400 acres, including the Bond Fire that’s been burning since last week and is only half contained.
PG&E Corp. earlier warned that more than 25,000 people in five counties could lose power, but canceled that warning because of changes in wind patterns and humidity levels.
Further south, Sempra Energy’s San Diego utility said more than 50,000 customers — or 150,000 people, based on the average household size — may lose power, though so far none have as of early Monday morning.
–With assistance from Brian K. Sullivan.
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