Gusty Santa Ana winds and dry conditions spelling heightened wildfire danger are forecast for Southern California starting Saturday night and continuing into early next week, according to the National Weather Service.

The gusts could reach 60 mph in parts of Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire.

A fire warning is in effect for the mountain areas of Santa Monica, Santa Clarita, and the San Gabriel Valley. The NWS also posted a high wind watch for the Inland Empire beginning at 3 a.m. Sunday and ending at 10 p.m. Monday, though meteorologists remain undecided as to when the northeasterly winds will subside.

The NWS said that a surface ridge of high pressure will anchor over the Great Basin in Nevada and Utah, moving in behind a low-pressure system as it exits eastward, ushering in the Santa Anas and lower humidity.

Forecasters said humidity dropping to 5% will mean bone-dry conditions across the inland region.

“For Saturday night through Tuesday, there will be elevated fire weather conditions, with periods of critical fire weather,” the weather service stated.

“In terms of fires, avoid activities that could create a spark,” NWS forecaster Stefanie Sullivan said. “Don’t park on top of grass if you have to pull over, because the heat from your exhaust could ignite a fire.”

The agency predicted winds averaging between 20 mph and 30 mph, with gusts of 55 to 60 mph possible in some locations. Mountains and passes, including the San Gorgonio Pass between Banning and Whitewater, will be on the receiving end of the most intense gusts, according to the NWS.

“Strong winds could damage trees and other objects,” the agency said. “Travel could be difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles.”

Although the high wind watch currently ends on Monday night, the NWS said it’s possible strong easterly winds would continue going into Wednesday.

“Overall, this is a moderate event, but it’s definitely the strongest one of the season so far,” Sullivan said. “The other ones were so weak I wouldn’t even classify them as Santa Anas.

High temperatures in Southern California metropolitan areas are expected to peak in the mid-70s over the weekend, with overnight lows in the low 50s.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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