Fire weather watch: strong, dry Santa Ana winds return to LA

The threat of wildfire will hang over the Southland beginning tonight because of dry vegetation, low humidity and strong Santa Ana winds, National Weather Service forecasters said.

A fire weather watch, denoting an expectation of "critical fire weather conditions," will be in effect from this evening through early Sunday evening in most of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, an NWS statement said.

"Increasing offshore flow is expected Friday evening into early Saturday morning as high pressure builds into the Great Basin," it said. "The strongest winds are expected late Friday night through Saturday afternoon, but
moderate northeast winds will likely persist through much of the day Sunday."

The NWS warned that red flag conditions, which are more serious than fire weather watch conditions, are likely between tonight and early Sunday evening, in part due to "the very dry vegetation" resulting from the drought.
But winds will begin to subside Sunday evening, and humidity levels will rise early next week.

In the meantime, a fire weather watch will be in force in Los Angeles County from tonight through Sunday afternoon in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains, the Angeles National Forest, the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, and the coastal zone, which includes beach cities, metropolitan Los Angeles, the downtown area and the Hollywood Hills.

The fire weather watch will not apply to the San Gabriel and Antelope valleys but will be in effect in mountain, forest, valley and coastal areas of Ventura County.

During the fire weather watch period, northeast winds of between 20 and 30 miles per hour will sweep across mountain and forest areas, gusting to 50 mph amid humidity levels of between 5 and 12 percent, NWS forecasters said.

In valley, coastal and urban areas, winds of between 15 and 25 mph are expected tonight, along with 35-mph gusts, increasing to 20 to 30 mph with 45-mph gusts Saturday morning, also amid 5-12 percent humidity levels, they said. "Conditions favorable for extreme fire behavior are likely if fire ignition occurs, which would result in danger to life and property," an NWS statement said.

Temperatures, meanwhile, will be around 10 degrees above normal, with highs reaching the low to mid 80s through the weekend.

The NWS forecast sunny skies today and highs of 73 in Palmdale and Lancaster; 77 on Mount Wilson, in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach; 78 in Avalon; 79 in San Clemente; 80 at LAX; 82 in Saugus; 84 in San Gabriel; 85 in Anaheim, Irvine, Burbank, Long Beach and downtown L.A; 86 in Pasadena, Woodland Hills
and Fullerton; and 88 in Yorba Linda and Mission Viejo.

Temperatures will dip six or seven degrees in the Antelope Valley Saturday but elsewhere generally remain as they are -- until Monday, when they will go down around five degrees. An even sharper drop-off will begin Tuesday, when highs will revert to the 60s.

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