SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Strong Santa Ana winds in San Diego County Friday raised the threat of wildfires and prompted power shutoffs for thousands of customers to limit the risk of accidental fires.
A National Weather Service-issued Red Flag warning took effect Thursday at 5 a.m. and was set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday. The alert was for the San Diego region's mountains and valleys, with the fiercest winds expected through early Friday morning.
The agency said sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph are expected, but gusts could reach 65 mph near mountain ridge tops.
The NWS also issued a high wind warning that will be in effect in the county mountains and valleys from 8 p.m. Thursday until 2 p.m. Friday. Officials warned that damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines, while travel will be especially difficult for high-profile vehicles.
The strong winds will continue through Friday afternoon, then begin subsiding, forecasters said.
The predicted Santa Ana winds initially prompted San Diego Gas & Electric to notify roughly 24,000 customers of potential power shutoffs for safety reasons, but as of Wednesday night that number had increased to nearly 42,000.
As of 3 a.m. Friday, power was shut off for 15,812 customers in Alpine, Boulevard, Campo, Cuyamaca, Descanso, Dulzura, Poway, East Valley Center, Guatay, Jacumba, Julian, Pauma Valley/Cuca Ranch, Pine Valley, Potrero, Ramona, Santa Ysabel, Lake Wohlford, Bear Valley, Skyline Ranch, Rincon, La Jolla Indian Reservation, Hellhole Canyon, and Viejas.
SDG&E said 28,355 customers in these communities are under consideration for Public Safety Power Shutoff: Barona, Barrett Lake, Black Mountain Ranch, Coronado Hills, Elfin Forest, Lake Hodges, Mesa Grande, Mount Laguna, Olivenhain, Palomar Mountain, Rancho Bernardo West, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Shelter Valley, and Warner Springs.
According to SDG&E, power was estimated to be restored for the affected communities by 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The San Diego County Office of Education, citing the SDG&E power shutoffs, said schools would be closed Friday in the Mountain Empire Unified School District, Julian Union School District, and Julian Union High School District.
SDG&E will open community resource centers from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the duration of any potential outages. The centers will be available for residents to get water and snacks, charge their phones and get updated information on the outages.
The centers will be located at the following locations:
Descanso Branch Library: 9545 River Dr, Descanso, CA 91916
Whispering Winds Catholic Camp: 17606 Harrison Park Road, Julian, CA 92036
Pine Valley Improvement Club: 28890 Old Highway 80, Pine Valley, CA 91962
Potrero Community Center: 24550 Hwy 94, Potrero, CA 91963
Dulzura Community Center: 1136 Community Building Road, Dulzura, CA 91917
Warner Springs Resource Center: 30950 CA-79, Warner Springs, CA 92086
Ramona Branch Library: 1275 Main St., Ramona, CA 92065
Valley Center Branch Library: 29200 Cole Grade Road, Valley Center, CA 92082
Updated information on SDG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoff can be found at sdge.com/wildfire-safety/public-safety-power-shutoffs.