Southern California Edison (SCE) is warning hundreds of thousands of customers that power may be shut off to their homes to protect against strong Santa Ana winds that are threatening Orange County and the region.
Red Flag Warnings that indicate “fire weather” are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Dec. 2 and will remain in effect until Saturday, Dec. 5, at 10 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, forecasting high, gusty winds and low humidity throughout Southern California.
Winds are expected to reach 20 to 30 miles per hour over the next few days in parts of Orange County and the region, with occasional strong gusts reaching 65 miles per hour. The strongest winds are expected on the afternoon of Dec. 3.
SCE is considering shutting off power to eight counties to protect against the conditions, affecting nearly 270,000 customers. The shutoffs would take place between Dec. 2 and Dec. 5, according to the company.
As of Dec. 2, 16,438 customers in Orange County were facing potential shutoffs.
In Los Angeles County, another 34,100 customers were also on alert, along with 67,490 in Riverside County, 59,907 in San Bernardino County, and 77,579 in Ventura County. Kern and Tulare counties were also affected.
Fewer than 2,000 homes had power shut off as of 12 p.m. on Dec. 2, according to SCE’s website. Most were in located in Riverside County, though a few were in Los Angeles. The website updates the figures regularly.
Shutdowns take place because strong winds have the ability to knock down trees and power lines, potentially causing a fire. The risk is especially high if the area is under “critical fire conditions,” with strong winds, low humidity, and high temperatures. Areas with dryer vegetation are also a higher risk for starting a fire.
“When there is a 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,” a statement reads on SCE’s website.
Residents concerned about whether they might be affected by the shutoffs can look at the power company’s interactive map to see if the area they live in could be impacted.
The National Weather Service recommends that people prepare for Red Flag Warnings by knowing evacuation plans, packing an emergency kit, and pre-filling vehicles with gas so they can leave on short notice.