SoCal's strong winds topple big rigs, increase risk of fire danger

GRIFFITH PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Even big rigs were no match for the powerful winds slamming parts of Southern California New Year's Day, and the fierce conditions are raising concern for potential fires.

Wind gusts in the Inland Empire were strong enough to topple over a semi-truck while the chilly Santa Ana winds also whipped everything in its path.

A major concern: Some of the most devastating fires in SoCal strike when you least expect it -- sparking on cold and dry winter nights.

The mountain communities of L.A. County are under a fire weather watch due to the combination of dry conditions and gusty winds.

As a result, Los Angeles County firefighters are staffing up and preparing for another potential disaster as the Santa Anas sweep across the valleys.

"The Santa Ana winds cycle seems to be getting a little longer than what they've been in the past. December, January is when we see our big ones," said Capt. Tony Imbrenda.

The Sayre Fire, back in 2008, sparked in Sylmar on a cold, dry night in November. Just last month, the Woolsey Fire devastated coastal Malibu. And nobody can forget last year's Thomas Fire, which exploded because of dry wintertime conditions.

The wind gusts did clear the air and make way for spectacular views at Griffith Park, but low humidity, dry soil and strong winds make for a terrible combination - even if it's cold outside.

"It was absolutely beautiful. We didn't know what to expect," said Melbourne resident Janette Bower. "But since we've arrived we've just had glorious clear, blue sunny skies, and it's been perfect for lots of walking and exploring of your beautiful city."

A high-wind warning is in effect for parts of Orange County; San Bernardino County Mountains; Santa Ana Mountains and the foothills through 2 p.m. Wednesday.

"Once you apply the high winds, dry Santa Ana winds, we have the potential -- once you have ignition -- for rapid fire growth where fires can get large quickly," Imbrenda said.

As the winds clear, SoCal residents should expect widespread freezing and cold temperatures for the next few nights.
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