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Santa Ana winds will whip across California, with power outages and downed trees likely

Huntington Beach, CA - February 22: People bundle-up while taking a walk on the pier amidst cold, gusty winds in Huntington Beach Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. Southern California has only gotten a taste of the powerful winter storm system that forecasters say will bring an extended period of cold temperatures, high winds and snow, prompting the region's first blizzard warning on record. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
People bundle up while walking on the pier amid gusty winds in Huntington Beach in February. A moderate to strong Santa Ana wind event will blast Southern California with cold, blustery winds this week. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As a strong, cold weather system moves south across the Great Basin, much of California will be lashed by gusty, dangerous winds that are likely to down trees and knock out power.

The National Weather Service issued wind advisories — including high wind warnings — from late Wednesday through Friday stretching from the northern Sierra to the Orange County coast, including the Sacramento Valley, the Mojave Desert, the mountains in Los Angeles County and much of the Central Coast. Peak winds are expected to reach 30 mph to 65 mph Thursday, with some gusts hitting 100 mph, forecasters predicts.

"Damaging winds will blow down large objects such as trees and power lines," weather officials warned. "Power outages are expected. Travel will be difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles."

The low-pressure system's cold air and blustery winds are ideal conditions for a "moderate to strong Santa Ana wind event" in Southern California, said Ryan Kittell, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oxnard. The typically dry, offshore wind pattern will push north and northeast winds into Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and Orange County beginning Wednesday and picking up over the next 24 to 48 hours.

“Today we’ll see some northerly winds," Kittell said Wednesday, noting that wind speeds are expected in the 30-mph to 50-mph range, mostly affecting the 5 Freeway corridor, along the Grapevine and through the Santa Monica Mountains.

But on Thursday, winds will shift to the east while increasing in intensity, reaching 45 mph to 65 mph in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys, across most of Los Angeles County's mountains, into Malibu and along the Ventura County coast and valleys, Kittell said. Isolated gusts could reach 70 mph in the San Gabriel Mountains, he said.

Parts of Orange County, specifically below the coastal slopes of the Santa Ana Mountains, and across the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County, could see the highest gusts, blasting up to 100 mph Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds in the mountains of the Inland Empire and Orange County are expected to reach 50 mph to 75 mph and could push up to 80 mph in some wind-prone canyons, weather officials said.

While Santa Ana winds typically bring a threat of wildfires, recent heavy rainfall has mostly eliminated that concern for now, Kittell said.

However, with grounds saturated, there's an elevated threat for downed trees, which could exacerbate power service disruptions and create roadway hazards.

The storm also could bring mountain and desert showers and thunderstorms Friday and Saturday, with the possibility of snow above 6,000 feet.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.