A wind event in Southern California that led to gusts as high as 89 miles per hour had over 17 million living under wildfire warnings this holiday weekend.
This comes after thousands in Southern California were without power on Thanksgiving for the second year running as the region’s largest utility cut off service amid risks of strong winds causing wildfires.
As of Friday night, a few thousand in the region were still without service.
Edison International of Southern California halted power service to 63,835 homes and businesses across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
The shutoff began around 10:36 a.m. local time Thursday, Thanksgiving.
Edison is shutting down power to avoid having live wires spark blazes and possible wildfires as a wind storm hit the area.
Utilities suggested more than 200,000 accounts could lose service between the Los Angeles and San Diego areas.
One location in Los Angeles County so a gust up to 89 miles per hour early Thursday. However, no wildfires were reported though there was an 18-acre fire in the San Diego-area Thursday.
The winds died down Friday, but threats of widespread gusts between 35 to 60 miles per hour were expected with up to 75 miles per hour possible, according to the National Weather Service.
A wind event in Southern California that led to gusts as high as 89 miles per hour had over 17 million living under wildfire warnings this holiday weekend
An 18-acre wildfire broke out near San Diego on Thursday morning
Dry conditions and gusty winds prompted the weather service to issue a red flag warning for several Southern California counties through 6 p.m. local time Friday. Red flags signal dangerous weather conditions where wildfires can spark and spread unpredictably. Fire departments bring on additional staff while the warnings are in play.
At least 17 million people live where red flag warnings remained in effect Friday, the Weather Service said.
‘These are very strong winds,’ said Gabriela Ornelas, a spokesperson for Southern California Edison.
The winds can blow debris into power lines and spark fires, which is why the public safety power shutoffs were implemented.
Better weather was predicted for the weekend.
‘There will be a few puffs of wind each morning Saturday and Sunday but nothing near advisory levels,’ the weather service said.
Wildfires sparked by live power lines, like this one pictured from 2019, are the reasons for the shutdowns
Edison crews (pictured in a stock image) will have to check the power lines after the winds before power can be restored
Voluntarily switching off power lines ahead of strong winds has become somewhat of a new normal in the region after a series of deadly wildfires was sparked by their equipment.
Last year on Thanksgiving, over 20,000 homes and businesses had their power cut for the holiday, only made worse by the fact that some had to shelter in place due to the pandemic.
A Red Flag Warning, the highest alert possible, was posted to warn people in the area of strong, dry winds from Santa Barbara to the US/Mexico border through Friday.
This came after an 18-acre brush fire broke out near San Diego earlier Thursday. No one was injured.
The United States Storm Prediction Center claimed that these are fire-weather conditions.
San Diego Gas and Electric has had to shut off power for thousands of customers
Kevin McGowan, head of the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management
Kevin McGowan, head of the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management, advised that residents stay informed and be ready to evacuate, especially if they live in canyon, mountain or foothill communities.
Service in both the Los Angeles and San Diego regions will be restored once the utilities can survey power lines for wind damage.
Over 3.1 million acres of California state and federal land have been burned by over 8,000 fires in 2021 alone.
The blazes have killed three people and claimed three lives, according to the state department of forestry.
The problem is only worsening as human-caused climate change has caused a more than 20-year megadrought along the West Coast state, fire officials said.