Heavy winds in California spark fires, force power outages

Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Powerful winds sparked new wildfires in California on Tuesday, leaving thousands in the state without power.

The National Weather Service recorded a gust of 97 mph in Sonoma County as high wind warnings and advisories were issued throughout the state with forecasts that gusts may reach 70-80 mph at higher elevations and 50-70 mph in valleys near the coast.


"These high winds have the potential to produce widespread downed trees and tree limbs, significant property damage and numerous power outages," the NWS said.

At least seven new fires were reported on Tuesday according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, as the agency urged residents to remain vigilant.

"Fires show low to moderate spread, with slow creeping behavior. When wind kicks up, fires kick up," the agency said. "Currently wind has died down. Fire crews are working quickly, as winds are expected to pick up tonight."


Some of the fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties resulted from strong winds reigniting embers left behind by the CZU complex wildfire over the summer, while others were caused by downed powerlines, Cal Fire spokeswoman Cecile Juliette said.

Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison cut off power to customers preemptively to reduce the wildfire risk.

"When there is high risk for a wildfire, we may temporarily shut off power to your neighborhood to prevent our electric system from becoming the source of ignition," Southern California Edison said.

More than 260,000 people throughout the state were without power as of Tuesday evening according to tracking by

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