Santa Ana Winds, Why So Dangerous in Riverside?
What are Santa Ana Winds? Why do the strong gusts of wind feel warm, and why do they cause fires?
Santa Ana Winds are something unique to Southern California. They can cause a great deal of damage. The fast, hot winds cause vegetation to dry out, increasing the danger of wildfire. Once the fires start, the winds fan the flames and hasten their spread. The winds create turbulence which exhibit substantial change in speed and/or direction with height.
Santa Ana Winds occur when air from a region of high pressure over the dry, desert region of the southwestern U.S. flows westward towards low pressure located off the California coast. This creates dry winds that flow east to west through the mountain passages in Southern California. These winds are most common during the cooler months of the year, occurring from September through May. Santa Ana winds typically feel warm (or even hot) because as the cool desert air moves down the side of the mountain, it is compressed, which causes the temperature of the air to rise. These strong winds can cause major property damage. They also increase wildfire risk because of the dryness of the winds and the speed at which they can spread a flame across the landscape.
Wildfires are a common hazard across California. When conditions are right, small fires can become raging firestorms in the blink of an eye. Being prepared can make all the difference to your safety.
California Fires are usually named by the dispatcher who takes the initial report and sometimes by the first responder at the scene, The Los Angeles Times reported. Dispatchers will name fires by finding a nearby landmark or feature, like a canyon, river or valley.
In Just recent weeks, we've experienced the Airport Fire which started near the Corona Municipal Airport. It was reported Tuesday night, on Dec 1, behind the airport at Prado Basin. It was less than 5 acres but red flag conditions, Santa Ana winds and low humidity kept it going. On Wednesday it spread to 50 acres and by Thursday had grown to 500 acres with 0% containment.
Also burning Thursday December 3rd was the Bond Fire in Orange County. This was initially started by a home fire that quickly turned into a wild fire due to the dry wind conditions. By end of day Thursday it grew quickly to 7,200 acres!
Here is some information from Riverside Ready regarding terms we should all be familiar with.
Know the Terms
- Fire Weather Watch – A Fire Weather Watch is issued in anticipation of Red Flag Warning conditions beyond the first 12-hour forecasting period. It is upgraded to a Red Flag Warning once conditions are 12 hours or less in the future, or the forecast changes and the watch is cancelled.
- Red Flag Warning – A Red Flag Warning means warm temperatures, very low humidity's, and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger.
- Extreme Red Flag Warning – An Extreme Red Flag Warning is issued when conditions are dangerous enough that enhanced wording is needed to convey the danger present. It is analogous to wording added to severe weather watches and warnings, including use of the phrase “This is a Particularly Dangerous Situation.”
- Evacuation Warning – An Evacuation Warning is issued by Public Safety officials to warn of the potential need for an evacuation due to wildfire. This term replaces the Voluntary Evacuation terminology. If you are under an evacuation warning, be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and consider evacuating early if you feel there is danger or need extra time to move to safety. Make sure you have multiple ways to receive alerts, including if power goes out. NOAA Weather Radios are a great tool, in addition to signing up for local Mass Notification alerts like RiversideAlert.
- Evacuation Order – An Evacuation Order replaced the Mandatory Evacuation terminology. This order indicates imminent danger to life and property, even if it is not readily apparent, and you should leave immediately if you are in this area. Remember, things are replaceable. You are not.
SERVPRO of West Riverside City is here to help with damage caused by high winds. Roofs can be impacted and when winds are strong enough, they can down trees. Most importantly, they cause wildfires. Please be safe as Santa Ana winds and Red Flag warnings run through sometimes May.
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