Santa Ana winds have roared to life across inland San Diego County, reaching 88 mph early Thursday at Sill Hill in Descanso and 60 mph or higher along Interstate 8 in the East County.
SDG&E says power has been disrupted to about 5,000 customers across a wide area of East County, including parts of Descanso, Pine Hills, and Buckman Springs. Some of those customers were left without power because the utility shut it off to reduce fire risks.
The American Red Cross has opened emergency shelters to support residents impacted by power outages. The shelters are located at Bostonia Park & Recreation Center in El Cajon, and at the East Valley Community Center in Escondido.
By mid-morning, gusty winds were creating problems on area freeways and roads, knocking down trees and threatening high-profile vehicles such as RVs and big rigs.
Shortly after 10:45 a.m., a tree fell onto the westbound lanes of Interstate 8 west of the Lake Murray/70th Street exit and it was blocking all but the fast lane, the CHP said.
About an hour earlier, a 38-foot-long fifth-wheel trailer was blown over by the wind on Interstate 8 at Japatul Valley Road. And just before 10:30 a.m., officers were dispatched to a report of a big-rig that had blown over at the Pine Valley bridge.
The dry winds exerted great force on Thursday. The winds gusted to 64 mph at Boulder Hills, 61 mph at Crestwood and 55 mph at Sunrise Highway. At the same time, the relative humidity is less than 10 percent across much of inland San Diego County.
The winds are causing driving hazards on Interstate 8, raising the prospect for wildfires across a landscape that has little rain for month. So far, there have been no big fires Thursday in San Diego County. But a tiny wildfire erupted in Mission Valley, near Hotel Circle, shortly before 6 a.m. on Thursday. But it was quickly extinguished.
San Diego Gas & Electric notified about 170,000 of its customers on Wednesday that they could lose power due to the winds, which will last into late Thursday.
By 6 a.m. Thursday, the utility had turned off the power to thousands of customers in parts of East County and North County. The utility placed a generator in Julian to cutdown on the number of potential outages.
Through early Thursday, the outages have affected residents in West Descanso, Viejas, Boulder Creek, Live Oak Springs, Boulevard, Jucumba, Japatul Valley, Buckman Springs and Morena Valley, Santa Ysabel, Wynola, and Pine Hills, Valley Center, Rincon, Pauma Valley, La Jolla Indian Reservation, Hellhole Canyon, La Jolla Indian Reservation, Mesa Grande, Santa Ysabel, Palomar Mountain and Lake Henshaw. The outages, which will last until at least 4 p.m. Thursday, currently affect about 800 customers.