'Sundowner' winds could fan flames in Southern California

Alex Sosnowski

Strong northerly winds, known as 'sundowners,' will create an extended period of high fire danger over a large part of Southern California.

The winds and the fire risk will continue through Sunday night and can be strongest in some cases during the evening and overnight hours.

"Dry, warm air accompanying the winds will add significantly to the fire threat by making brush more flammable," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Courtney Travis.

Winds will average 15-30 mph through the north/south canyons, through the passes and over the ridges. However, frequent gusts between 40 and 50 mph are anticipated with AccuWeather Local StormMax™ gusts of 60 mph forecast.

"Any existing or new fires will have the potential to behave erratically and rapidly grow," Travis said.

Smoke from a wildfire engulfs a hillside as traffic flows along I-5 Freeway Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Newhall, Calif. The smoky scene was a reminder of the threat of the fire season is just beginning. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Winds can be strong enough in some cases to dislodge power lines and lead to sparks. In a few cases, minor property damage can occur from the winds.

People should avoid using open flames, outdoor power equipment or partaking in any activity that can potentially produce sparks. The hot exhaust system of vehicles that have been running for a few minutes or more can start a fire if parked over dry brush.

The strong winds are being coaxed by a strong storm pusing inland over the Northwestern states.

A compensating area of high pressure just south of that storm will boost the southward flow of air into Southern California.

As both systems push farther inland, winds will generally ease by early this week.

However, a weak Santa Ana event can follow and prolong the risk of locally gusty winds along with surging temperatures for a few more days.

Temperatures on Monday and Tuesday are likely to average 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than that of the start of this weekend. For example, the high in downtown Los Angeles was 80 on Saturday, but highs are likely to be in the lower 90s on Monday and Tuesday.

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