A red flag warning signaling a heightened risk of wildfire went into effect today in Riverside County due to warm, windy and extremely dry conditions, meteorologists said.
The National Weather Service alert, due to run from 6 this morning to 6 p.m. Sunday, cautions that "critical" combustion risks likely will result from strong Santa Ana winds out of the northeast coupled with humidity levels dipping mostly below 15 percent and possibly into the single digits.
The agency expects sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts ranging from 35 to 60 mph in most areas to 65 to 75 mph in the foothills in the Banning Pass area.
A red flag warning is the most serious fire-related warning issued by the NWS.
The federal agency also issued separate high wind warnings for the Coachella Valley, Inland Empire and the mountains of Riverside County. Both warnings went into effect at 2 this morning but the Coachella Valley warning was scheduled until noon Saturday, while the warning for the Inland Empire and mountain areas was issued until noon Sunday. A high wind warning means a hazardous high wind event capable of causing property damage is expected or occurring.
The strongest winds will be during the late night into early morning hours each day, an NWS advisory said.
Area firefighting agencies have reported plans to be on high alert while the dicey weather prevails.
"By this time of year, conditions in many areas are at their driest of the season," Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said in a statement. "When you add in strong winds, it makes this time of year a perfect recipe for wildfires.
"Even though it is fall, we need the public to understand that we are still in fire season throughout much of California and everyone must take extra precautions to avoid sparking a wildfire."
A cold low pressure system from the northwest could provide a significant shift in the weather early next week. According to the NWS, the system could bring rain and mountain snow to the region Wednesday or Thursday. --City News Service