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

Strong Santa Ana winds are expected in San Diego County Thursday and Friday, raising the threat of wildfires and prompting precautionary power shutoffs.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning, in effect until 5 p.m. Friday in the mountains and valleys, with the fiercest winds likely late Thursday night through early Friday morning.

The agency said sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph are expected, but gusts could reach 65 mph near mountain ridge tops.

Daytime humidity could drop as low as 5% Thursday and high temperatures in inland areas will hover in the mid- to high 90s.

Temperatures in the mountains will top out in the high 70s.

The NWS also issued a high wind warning that will be in effect in the county mountains and valleys from 8 p.m. Thursday until 2 p.m. Friday. Officials warned that damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines, while travel will be especially difficult for high-profile vehicles.

The strong winds will continue through Friday afternoon, then begin subsiding, forecasters said.

The predicted Santa Ana winds initially prompted San Diego Gas & Electric to notify roughly 24,000 customers of potential power shutoffs for safety reasons, but as of Thursday morning, that number had increased to nearly 42,000.

As of 10:15 a.m., 3,955 customers in the Alpine, Boulder Creek, Boulevard, Campo, Cuyamaca, Dehesa, Descanso, Dulzura, Jacumba, Live Oak Springs, Morena Village, Pine Hills, Pine Valley, Potrero and Santa Ysabel areas were without power due to unsafe conditions, according to the utility’s online outage map.

The San Diego County Office of Education shuttered schools in the Mountain Empire Unified School District, between the Pine Valley and Morena Village areas, because SDG&E initiated a precautionary power shutoff to residents nearby.

Areas that could also be affected include Barona, Barrett Lake, Black Mountain Ranch, Coronado Hills, East Valley Center, Elfin Center, Julian, Lake Hodges, Mesa Grande, Mount Laguna, Palomar Mountain, east Poway, Ramona, the western portion of Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Shelter Valley, Viejas and Warner Springs.

SDG&E has opened two community resource centers from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the duration of the wind event. The centers are available for residents to get water and snacks, charge their phones and get updated information on the outages.

One center is located in Descanso, 9545 River Drive, and the other in Julian, 17606 Harrison Park Road.

Updated at 10:45 a.m., Oct. 24. 2019

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.