It’s one word the National Weather Service in Los Angeles doesn’t want Southern California residents to overlook – extreme.
As in, this isn’t just another red flag warning – meaning winds, temperatures and humidity are ripe for fire danger. It’s an extreme red flag warning.
The weather service in using the term for the first time to convey that the fire conditions expected this week “have not been seen in recent memory.”
Hurricane-force winds – the kinds that knock down power lines and trees – are expected to blow across bone-dry vegetation on Wednesday, and the weather service is warning there is a danger of very rapid fire spread.
“Residents in high fire risk areas should be ready and set to evacuate if emergency officials say so,” the weather service office said.
Tom Fisher with the weather service said the NWS was not making a new category of warnings.
“Extreme red flag is not a grade, but it was super important that we get the residents’ attention,” he said. “This is the fourth event that we’ve had, it’s been a very long, dry spell. And there’s no rain in sight.”
This isn’t the first time the National Weather Service has tried to convey danger by adding enhanced language to an alert. In 1999, they issued a tornado “emergency” for Moore, Oklahoma, before an EF5 tornado that killed 36 people. In 2005, an NWS forecaster in Louisiana warned of conditions that could make the area “uninhabitable” before Hurricane Katrina killed more than 3,600 people and wrought around $161 billion of damage in the Gulf Coast states.
Multiple fires in California
More than 26 million people from California to Arizona are under red flag warnings Tuesday as firefighters deal with blazes already burning in California’s wine country and in the Los Angeles area.
The threats include:
• A “remarkable and dangerous” Santa Ana winds event in Southern California – perhaps the strongest this season – is expected to bring gusts of 60-70 mph in the valleys and up to 80 mph in the mountains from late Tuesday night into Wednesday, the National Weather Service in Los Angeles said.
• Strong winds Tuesday afternoon in Northern California, with gusts up to 50 mph, the weather service’s Storm Prediction Center says.
The worsening conditions come as firefighters across the state battle at least 11 wildfires that have combined to leave thousands of people under evacuation orders.
On the west side of Los Angeles, where the Getty Fire has charred more than 650 acres since Monday, the expected winds mean roughly 20,000 people under evacuation orders there “will not be returning t