Santa Ana winds raise wildfire hazards in Riverside County

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Strong Santa Ana winds and low humidity will significantly raise the threat of wildfires Wednesday in Riverside County, according to the National Weather Service.
The NWS issued a red flag warning that will remain in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday in the county mountains, valleys and the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning. The Coachella Valley was not included in the warning.
Winds out of the east and northeast are expected to blow at between 25-35 mph, with gusts reaching 55 mph in the valleys and 80 mph below the Cajon and San Gorgonio passes, forecasters said. Relative humidity will drop as low as 5% by this afternoon, with poor overnight recovery expected through Friday.
The strongest winds are expected from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, then wind speeds will decrease tonight through Thursday morning, according to the NWS.
The threat was deemed high today, according to the Sana Ana Wildfire Threat Index, which means that “upon ignition, fires will grow very rapidly, will burn intensely, and will be very difficult to control.”
A high wind warning will also be in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday in the county mountains, valleys and the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning. Officials warned that damaging winds could blow down trees and power lines, while travel will be especially difficult for high-profile vehicles.
High temperatures today could reach 73 degrees in the Coachella Valley, 69 in the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning, 69 in Riverside, 70 in Temecula and 69 in Hemet.
Southern California Edison said the utility is considering precautionary power shutoffs this week that could potentially affect nearly 34,000 customers in Riverside County. The shutoffs would be implemented to de-energize power lines in danger of being damaged or downed by strong winds, potentially sparking wildfires.
As of 3 a.m., 133 customers in the Mountain Center and Idyllwild areas were without power.
Areas that could also face precautionary power shutoffs include Palm Springs, North Palm Springs, Banning, Beaumont, Desert Hot Springs, San Jacinto, Murrieta, the Banning Pass including Cabazon, areas north and northwest of Cabazon, Cherry Valley, Highway 79 Lambs Canyon Road, County Lake Mobile Community, Gilman Hot Springs, Lakeview Hot Springs, Lakeview, Mas Canyon, Owl, Ramona Expressway and the San Jacinto River, River Park, Soboba Hot Springs, Soboba Reservation, Whitewater, Whitewater Canyon, areas east and northeast of Banning, Big Oaks Canyon and Rancho.