‘Extraordinary wind gusts' spark fires, power outages across Calif.

Brian Lada
·4 min read

The biggest storm to hit California so far in 2021 ramped up on Tuesday, but the storm did not feature much precipitation. Instead, hurricane-force winds lashed the Golden State, causing widespread disruptions and power outages.

"We've got debris flying right down the road," AccuWeather National News Reporter Bill Wadell said while in Fontana, California, on Tuesday morning.

The strongest winds were clocked at the higher elevations, including the mountains surrounding Los Angeles and the Bay Area, but even in more populated areas, damage was reported ranging from trees falling onto buildings and large trucks toppling over on highways.

"Extraordinary wind gusts in California, among some of the strongest ever recorded in the state, occurred at mountain peaks. Winds were recorded reaching 119 mph at Mammoth Mountain," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Bowers.

"Even at a few mountain communities there were gusts to nearly 100 mph, as in Cobb, just northeast of San Francisco," Bowers said.

"I've lived here my whole life, so it kind of comes with the territory," Santa Clarita resident Carlie Fruchtman told AccuWeather on Tuesday.

"This is pretty bad, I haven't seen it this windy in a long time," Fruchtman added.

Santa Clarita, California, resident Carlie Fruchtman tells AccuWeather how bad the winds have been in her neighborhood. (AccuWeather/Bill Wadell)

One of the biggest disruptions to the daily lives of Californians was power outages, an issue that has been compounded by the pandemic as people are working from home and attending school virtually. Over 250,000 were without power throughout most of Tuesday, according to PowerOutage.us.

"Our crews will continue to work as safely and quickly as possible until all customers are restored," PG&E spokesperson J.D. Guidi told SF Gate News, who could not provide a specific time for when the power will go back on.

The winds also continue to put a pause on the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines. "A COVID-19 vaccine site in Disneyland had to shut down because of these high winds," Wadell said.

Additionally, all of the COVID-19 testing sites in Ventura County, California, were closed on Tuesday due to the high winds.

The winds also caused damage and toppled trees throughout Yosemite National Park. Officials said the park will likely remain closed until Friday morning. No injuries were reported due to the high winds.

A critical fire risk accompanied the windy, dry weather with emergency crews on standby early Tuesday ready to battle the blazes that ignited. By the early afternoon, helicopters could be seen in the sky over several regions of California to contain bush fires being fanned by the persistent winds.

"A couple of factors leading to a number of fire outbreaks from near San Francisco to San Diego," Bowers said.

"First off, the rainy season has not materialized. January, so far, has been very dry and December was below normal," he explained. "Second, the current weather pattern is causing widespread powerful winds and very low humidity levels,"


A large, devastating wildfire that was sparked during a lightning siege back in August seemed to come back to life as several hot spots were detected in the burn scar area of the CZU Lightning Complex.

"Fires within the #CZULightningComplex burn area were regenerated by high winds," the CAL FIRE San Mateo - Santa Cruz Unit tweeted on Tuesday morning. " Other units in the area are battling their own vegetation fires as well."

The blazes that sparked in the CZU Lightning Complex burn scar and other nearby areas lead to evacuations in part of Santa Cruz County, The Associated Press said.

Winds have subsided to non-disruptive levels over Northern California as of Wednesday morning, but they are forecast by AccuWeather meteorologists to remain strong and problematic across Southern California through the afternoon and into the evening. Gusts frequenting 40-60 mph are in store for Southern California as a whole with peak gusts close to 80 mph anticipated over the ridges and through the northeast-southwest orientated canyons and valleys throughout Wednesday.

By the end of the week, a storm more typical of winter is projected to arrive in California, spreading rain and mountain snow over the state. This does not appear to be a significant storm, but the moisture will help emergency crews contain any fires that may still be burning following the spell of windy weather.

Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.