Red Flag Warnings Issued As Dry, Windy Weather Returns

(FOX 11 /  CNS) Fierce Santa Ana winds swirled around areas of Southern California today amid low humidity levels, raising a high risk of wildfires in much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, National Weather Service forecasters warned.

RELATED: Southern Calif. Winds Topple Trees, Power Lines

A red flag warning denoting the danger of wildfires went into effect at 5 a.m. and was scheduled to remain in force through Thursday evening.

"A moderate to strong Santa Ana wind event will develop rapidly prior to sunrise" and humidity levels will slip into the low teens and single digits, between 7 and 15 percent, said an NWS statement, adding that the winds would die down this afternoon, only to pickup again overnight through Thursday morning. Low humidity levels will persist Friday.

The red flag warning was specifically issued for the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Angeles National Forest in L.A. County and the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County. It was scheduled to last from 5 a.m. today until 8 p.m. Thursday.

This morning's northeast winds will blow in mountain areas at sustained speeds of 25-40 miles per hour, gusting at 60 mph and greater, according to the NWS. The strongest winds will blow through the Interstate 5 Corridor and along the Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, it said.

A high wind warning indicating the expected advent of 58-mile-per-hour gusts was issued for the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains and scheduled to remain in force until 3 p.m. Thursday. A less serious wind advisory will be in effect until 3 p.m. Thursday in the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and the so called Los Angeles Coastal Zone, which includes L.A.

County beach cities, metropolitan L.A. and the Hollywood Hills.

The wind in areas subject to a wind advisory will be weaker than in the mountains, blowing at between 20 and 30 mph with 45-mph gusts, forecasters said.

The winds could make driving challenging, especially in high profile vehicles, forecasters warned.

Forecasters blamed the wind event on a "strong northwesterly pressure gradient" in the region resulting from surface high pressure over Nevada.

The NWS forecast sunny skies today and highs of 68 on Mount Wilson; 71 in Palmdale and Lancaster; 72 in San Clemente; 77 in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach; 74 in Avalon; 79 in Saugus; 81 at LAX and in San Gabriel; 82 in downtown L.A., Pasadena, Burbank and Mission Viejo; 83 in Woodland Hills; 84 in Long Beach and Yorba Linda; 85 in Irvine; 86 in Anaheim; 87 in Fullerton.

Temperatures will be a little higher Thursday but slip by a few degrees Friday, when a gradual cooling trend will get underway.

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