Red flag fire danger warning
A red flag fire danger warning outside a fire station in Valley Center. Courtesy OnScene.TV

Precautionary power shutoffs were instituted Thursday in various communities in eastern and northern San Diego County in light of “extreme” red flag fire weather conditions.

The National Weather Service issued the warning through 6 p.m. for the county mountains and valleys, where Santa Ana winds out of the east and northeast are expected to be between 20-30 mph and gusts could reach 50 mph. Relative humidity will drop as low as 5% by late Thursday morning, with little or no recovery expected on Friday.

The strongest winds are expected Thursday morning, then the winds will gradually diminish Thursday afternoon, forecasters said.

The threat was deemed moderate Thursday, according to the Sana Ana Wildfire Threat Index, which means that “upon ignition, fires will grow rapidly and will be difficult to control.”

A high wind warning is also be in effect until noon Thursday in the mountains and valleys. Officials warned that damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines, while travel will be especially difficult for high- profile vehicles.

Temperatures could reach 76 degrees near the coast and inland, 81 in the western valleys, 76 near the foothills, 69 in the mountains and 73 in the deserts.

San Diego Gas & Electric officials said the utility initiated precautionary power shutoffs to de-energize power lines in danger of being damaged or downed by strong winds, potentially sparking wildfires.

As of 10 a.m., SDG&E had shut off power to 16,128 homes and businesses in Alpine, Boulevard, Campo, Descanso, Dulzura, portions of Encinitas, portions of Escondido, Fallbrook, portions of Jamul, Julian, Mount Laguna, Pala, Pauma Valley, Pine Valley, Potrero, portions of Poway, Rainbow, Ramona, portions of Rancho Bernardo, portions of Rancho Santa Fe, Santa Ysabel and Valley Center.

No additional power shutoffs were anticipated.

“Improved weather conditions in portions of our service territory are allowing our crews to patrol and inspect power lines impacted by Public Safety Power Shutoffs,” the utility said in a statement on its website. “We encourage residents who are without power to regularly check our outage map for the latest estimates on restoration times.”

The San Diego County Office of Education announced that campuses in the Dehesa School District, Mountain Empire Unified School District, Rancho Santa Fe School District, Spencer Valley School District, Vallecitos School District, Valley-Center Pauma Unified School District and all schools in Julian would be closed Thursday because of the power shutoffs.

The outage map can be found at:

SDG&E has opened six community resource centers where residents can get water and snacks, charge their phones and get up-to-date information about the outages.

A full list of the center locations can be found at:

Updated at 10:45 a.m. Oct. 31. 2019

–City News Service