Cape Argus

Wind whips wildfires


A DANGEROUS Santa Ana wind event in southern California yesterday whipped winds across mountain tops and through narrow valleys at speeds of up to 135km/h.

Amid a surge in coronaviru­s cases that have prompted officials to advise Los Angeles residents to stay at home, fires are forcing thousands to make hasty evacuation­s, with officials advising them to seek out hotels.

The Bond Fire in Santiago Canyon, in Orange County, had spread to more than 1 415 hectares by early yesterday morning, while other fires burned in Riverside County, requiring evacuation­s.

With strong winds forecast to last throughout the day, fire danger remains “critical” to “extremely critical”, the two highest categories on the threat scale.

As of 6.30am local time, winds were gusting at 110km/h in the higher elevations near Malibu, with widespread gusts of 80-100km/h at lower elevations.

Such winds can make fighting these fires nearly impossible, since they cause rapid fire spread and extreme fire behaviour.

A moderate to strong Santa Ana wind event, featuring winds blowing from the land to the sea and extremely low relative humidity, is expected to continue through today in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The National Weather Service issued a rare “particular­ly dangerous situation” red flag warning for the Santa Clarita Valley and the Los Angeles and Ventura county mountains.

“If fire ignition occurs, conditions will be favourable for very rapid fire spread, long-range spotting, and very extreme fire behaviour that would threaten life and property,” forecaster­s warned.

“The strong winds could also down trees and power lines.”

Red flag warnings are in effect through tomorrow further south into San Diego County, where winds hit 145km/h in places yesterday.

Another Santa Ana wind event may affect southern California early next week, too, the Weather Service said. |

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