Only a handful of days after gusty winds last buffeted portions of Southern California, another Santa Ana event is set to ramp up across the region this weekend.
High pressure will build across the northern Rockies throughout the day on Saturday and reach its maximum strength by Saturday night.
"The clockwise flow around the high will cause a northeasterly wind to push into Southern California, the classic Santa Ana setup," AccuWeather meteorologist Ryan Adamson explained.
Wind speeds across the region will gradually pick up throughout the day Saturday and reach troubling levels later Saturday evening. As is typical with a Santa Ana event, the strongest, most damaging gusts will largely be confined to the highest elevations across the mountains and respective downwind areas of Southern California.
"Winds in the higher elevations may generally reach 65 to 75 mph," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Heather Zehr said. "The strongest winds are likely to be over the San Bernardino and Riverside mountains."
Even in coastal locations, wind gusts on the order of 40 to 60 mph will be the norm Saturday night and Sunday.
In terms of timing, this Santa Ana event is likely to reach its peak strength overnight Saturday into early Sunday morning. Forecasters say up to an AccuWeather Local StormMax&trade of 100 mph is possible where the strongest wind gusts roar in the highest elevations.
These strong winds Saturday night into Sunday can make travel across mountainous areas, including portions of Interstate 15, treacherous, especially for high-profile vehicles. Dangerous crosswinds can lead to rollovers and other types of accidents into Sunday. Localized power outages across the region can occur as well as a result of this event.
While the strongest wind gusts from this event will largely be confined to Southern California, gusty winds are also possible across much of the Desert Southwest.
|A depiction of where the strongest winds are likely to occur overnight Saturday across Southern California and the Desert Southwest. (AccuWeather)|
By Friday evening, high wind watches and wind advisories issued by the National Weather Service were already in place across wind-prone portions of Southern California in preparation for the weekend Santa Ana event. Even for cities located outside of the highest wind areas like Los Angeles, locally strong winds can still lead to issues.
Although fire danger will not reach critcal levels like what would occur with a summertime event, the risk for fire start and rapid spread will not be zero this weekend. While much of Southern California has managed to avoid the worst of the current drought conditions across the Southwest, the area is still running a rainfall deficit compared to average during its wettest season.
As of Friday, cities like Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Calif., have only recorded 48 and 61, respectively, of normal precipitation since the start of meteorological winter on Dec. 1. This general dry trend will leave some fuels at risk of burning this weekend.
Winds will begin to ease up later in the day Sunday as the area of high pressure that prompted the event shifts eastward, effectively ending the Santa Ana threat. A couple days of calmer, seasonable and dry conditions will follow in the wake of the Santa Ana event this weekend.
AccuWeather forecasters are keeping a close eye on a potential pattern change that may bring the opportunity for some brief, but much-needed precipitation to arrive for Southern California during the middle of the upcoming week.