California winds bring wildfires, power outages to thousands

A windstorm that fanned brushfires, toppled trees and left thousands of Californians without power is focusing its remaining energy on the southern end of the state

Via AP news wire
Wednesday 20 January 2021 23:34 GMT
California Winds Wildfires
California Winds Wildfires

A windstorm that fanned brushfires, toppled trees and left thousands of Californians without power focused its remaining energy Wednesday on the southern end of the state, where forecasters warned of the additional threat of heavy rain and flash flooding.

Strong winds were forecast through the day before tapering off. A low-pressure system moving across northern Baja California was expected to draw subtropical moisture into the region during the night, the National Weather Service said.

Winds gusts of 35 mph to 50 mph were reported in many canyons, valleys and coastal areas with gusts of 60 mph or more recorded in the mountains.

Flash-flood watches were posted for the eastern mountains and deserts and snow was expected at elevations of 5,500 feet (1,676 meters) and higher.

Utilities, meanwhile, were dealing with power outages resulting from a combination of wind damage and public safety power shutoffs intended to prevent sparks from downed or damaged equipment rom starting fires.

Southern California Edison’s website showed around 18,000 of its 5 million customers remained intentionally blacked out early Wednesday.

Pacific Gas & Electric intentionally shut power to around 5,000 customers in the northern and central areas of the state and was busy restoring power to around 286,000 customers who lost power due to severe weather. Most were expected to have their electricity restored by day's end.

Power lines must be inspected for signs of damage and repaired before they can be reenergized. PG&E said preliminary reports showed 125 power poles and 125 transformers had been damaged.

The powerful winds howled into Northern California late Monday and spread southward Tuesday under the influence of low-pressure systems.

Trees fell, branches flew and big rigs toppled over on highways. The danger forced Yosemite National Park to close for the day.

Wildfires occurred statewide, including two from gusts fanning long-smoldering embers from one of last summer’s massive wildfires in counties south of the San Francisco Bay region. Firefighters on alert due to the predicted conditions kept the fires small.

As aircraft bombarded a wind-whipped fire in northern Los Angeles County with retardant and water, as snow flurries fell on peaks to the east.

“Yesterday was one of the more unusual weather days in memory,” the LA-area weather office wrote early Wednesday.

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