Red flag warning extended as county experiences 'once in a decade' style Santa Anas

The National Weather Service has extended the red flag warning for San Diego County to Sunday, meaning that region will experience Santa Ana winds for a full week, possibly longer.

Forecasters issued the update on Thursday afternoon, just as the Lilac wildfire was spreading in the Bonsall area. The blaze, fueled by 40 mph winds, has burned more than 2,500 acres of land and injured two people.

The winds will fade on Friday and remain light early Saturday. But they’re expected to regain strength on Saturday night and early Sunday. The Santa Anas have been blowing, on-and-off, since Monday.

“This is a once-in-a-decade event,” said Alex Tardy, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Rancho Bernardo.

“Since Monday, we’ve had very low humidity and high winds, and Santa Anas usually don’t last that long. We haven’t had something like this since 2015, and we haven’t had Santa Anas that last a week or more since the big wildfires of 2007.”

He was referring to the series of large wildfires that hit the county in October 2007. For example, the Harris fire consumed more than 90,000 acres and killed eight people. The Witch fired burned almost 250,000 across and killed two.

The newly-extended red flag warning means, in this case, wildfires could break out anywhere from the coast to the mountains.

Thursday has turned out to be the windiest so far, with gusting to nearly 90 mph at Sill Hill near Descanso in East County. The winds also whipped to more than 50 mph along eastern Interstate 8, and over-turned a large trailer near the Japatul exit.

Here is a sample of Thursday’s fastest wind gusts: Sill Hill (near Descanso), 88 mph; Alpine mph, 70 mph; Valley Center, 69; Big Black Mountain, 68 mph; Palomar Mountain, 62 mph; Campo, 60; Julian, 56 mph; Otay Mountain, 50 mph; Ramona, 47 mph; Miramar MCAS, 47 mph; Mission Trails, 46 mph; Scripps Ranch, 45 mph; Mission Valley, 45 mph; Carlsbad, 41 mph; San Diego Country Estates, 40 mph; Valley Center, 38 mph; Montgomery, 37 mph; Poway, 36.

Twitter: @grobbins

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