Six rural school districts as well as two campuses in eastern San Diego County were closed Tuesday and about 30,000 homes and businesses were without power due to powerful Santa Ana winds and a resulting critical risk of wildfires.
Last weekend, the National Weather Service issued a “red flag” warning — denoting critical combustion hazards — for local mountains, valleys and coastal areas. The alert originally was set to last until 5 p.m. Tuesday but has been extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday in response to the gusty conditions, low humidity levels and unseasonable warmth across the region.
Additionally, the NWS instituted a high-wind warning in the mountains and valleys that remains in effect until 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Winds were expected to blow east to northeast at between 30 to 40 mph in most of the region with gusts of 80 mph possible near the ridge tops of the county mountains, according to the NWS. Sill Hill, just west of Cuyamaca Peak, recorded gusts as high as 86 mph Monday.
Humidity levels will drop to around 5 percent with poor recovery overnight.
As of 8 p.m. Monday, San Diego Gas & Electric had shut off power to around 10,600 customers in the Boulevard, Descanso, Campo, Julian, Ramona, Buckman Springs, Lake Wohlford, Pine Valley and Santa Ysabel areas as a safety precaution because of the high winds and low humidity, according to SDG&E.
By 9 a.m., that number had grown to around 30,000 customers in the previous areas along with the Olivenhain, Valley Center, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas, Escondido, San Marcos and Rancho Bernardo areas, SDG&E spokesman Joe Britton said.
The number includes planned safety outages and unplanned outages due to high winds, Britton said. The outages could last until the red flag warning expires Wednesday afternoon.
“We recognize how inconvenient it is to be without power,” the utility said on its website. “Public safety is our highest priority and we appreciate everyone’s patience throughout the duration of this extreme weather event.”
Campuses closed for the day due to the precautionary power-down were those in Dehesa School District, Jamul-Dulzura Union School District, Julian Union School District, Julian Union High School District, Mountain Empire Unified School District and Spencer Valley School District.
At around 7:30 a.m., the agency announced that Jamacha Elementary in the Cajon Valley Union School District and Cuyamaca Outdoor School, which is owned by the San Diego County Office of Education and located in Descanso, will also be closed Tuesday.
Six resource centers are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for residents affected by the outages.
Residents can get water and snacks, charge their phones and get updated information on outages at the resources center located at:
— Mountain Empire High School Gymnasium, 3305 Buckman Springs Road, Campo;
— Potrero Resource Center, 24550 Highway 94, Potrero;
— Camp Oliver Lodge, 8761 Riverside Drive, Descanso; and
— Golden Acorn Casino & Travel Center, 1800 Golden Acorn Way, Campo;
— Whispering Winds Catholic Camp, 17606 Harrison Park Road, Julian;
— Dulzura Community Center, 1136 Community Building Road, Dulzura.
High temperatures were forecast to be 75 to 80 degrees near the coast and inland, 75 to 80 degrees in the western valleys, 65 to 70 near the foothills and 53 to 62 in the mountains, NWS forecasters said.
Vegetation across the county is extremely dry, creating the potential for fast-moving out-of-control wildfires, according to the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index.
With the heightened fire danger, authorities recommended that residents avoid outdoor burning, using lawn mowers or power tools outside and have emergency preparedness kits in order.
In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, a wind-driven wildfire has scorched 96,314 acres and was 35 percent contained. The Woolsey fire, which broke out Thursday afternoon, has destroyed at least 435 structures and Cal Fire projected full containment of the blaze won’t come until Sunday.
The much smaller Hill Fire, burning north of Malibu and south of Simi Valley in Ventura County, has scorched 4,500 acres and was 90 percent contained.
Updated at 11:25 a.m. Nov. 13, 2018
–City News Service