Dry, gusty winds have raised a critical fire threat, prompting Edison International to threaten to cut power to more than 76,000 Southern California homes and businesses just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
A weather front that’s rushing south Wednesday will bring increasing winds through Thursday and Friday across a landscape that hasn’t seen a drop of rain in more than two weeks, said Zack Taylor, a forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. Humidity will drop, temperatures will rise and gusts could reach 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour in the hills north and east of Los Angeles. As many as 4.8 million people face a critical fire risk, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center.
“Those kinds of situations would result in high fire dangers,” Taylor said by telephone. “A fire weather watch is in place from Thanksgiving day through Friday evening.”
California has been charred by record fires that have burned 4.2 million acres and killed 31 people in 2020. The threat of fires rises with high winds that can knock down power lines. California residents have already been left in the dark multiple times in recent months as Edison, as well as PG&E Corp., opted to preemptively cut electricity in an effort to avoid disaster.
The outages this week may strike mountainous areas of Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, according to Edison’s website. Power would likely be out until Friday evening, Southern California Edison spokeswoman Taelor Bakewell said Tuesday.
PG&E, which serves most of Northern and Central California, isn’t considering public safety blackouts in the next seven days. Sempra Energy’s San Diego-area utility said the company is monitoring the weather but hasn’t issued any shutoff warnings.
Taylor said the high winds will likely ease over the weekend. While Northern California has had some rain and snow in recent weeks, more than 75% of the state is experiencing some form of drought.
The fire season across Southern California could last through December because of the dry conditions.