LOS ANGELES (AP) — Powerful Santa Ana winds lashed Southern California on Wednesday, toppling big rigs on highways and spreading a small fire that destroyed two structures.
High wind warnings stretched across a wide swath of the region, and red flag warnings for high fire danger were posted in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
The state Office of Emergency Services positioned extra firefighters, fire engines and other equipment in three counties ahead of the wind event.
The National Weather Service reported a predawn gust hitting 102 mph (164 kph) in mountains about 25 miles (40 km) north of downtown Los Angeles.
Local media reported big rigs blown over on highways north and east of Los Angeles.
Strong gusts quickly spread flames from a small brush fire in Fontana that swept through a pallet yard and destroyed a house and a vacant commercial building before crews got it under control.
Created by high pressure over the Great Basin, the fierce gusts of the witheringly dry Santa Anas are feared for their ability to whip sparks into disastrous firestorms. Gusts are usually strongest in passes and canyons and along foothills of mountain ranges.
The Santa Anas, common in the fall, also topple trees and bring the threat of power outages.
Forecasters also warned that east-facing harbors in the Channel Islands are not safe during the winds, which can cause vessels to break free from moorings and capsize.