Santa Ana winds, possibly year’s biggest, hit Southern California and may lead to power outages that could last into the weekend. The storm that has brought winter to the Southern half of the country for weeks has moved into the Central time zone, moving west through California, spreading snow from the coastal mountains to the deserts of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties.
Riverside International Airport in Riverside received 1.06 inches of rain in just two hours, the fifth-largest amount of rain in Southern California. An emergency evacuation notice has been issued for about 35,000 homes in the San Jacinto Mountains, where the San Diego County Fire Department says the Santa Ana winds have caused trees to fall causing structures and property damage and leaving many without power. “It’s the first (strongest) Santa Ana we’ve had since 2011,” said John Neeley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego, where it dumped 3.84 inches of rain in three hours, the latest in a series of storms that have swept through California in recent days. The storm is expected to continue moving west, moving over the Central time zone. “The biggest one we’ve seen is the San Bernardino,” Neeley said. “This is about a little bit less than 2 inches of rain, but it’s going to be a long one.”
The heavy rain has knocked out power and sent traffic snarled on Interstate 5 and Interstates 10, 405, and 91. Officials in Riverside and San Bernardino counties urged residents to avoid driving if it is raining hard. The wind gusts could be felt in parts of Riverside County, where residents on Mount Baldy and other mountainous areas reported gusts of up to 65 mph. In the mountain communities, many residents are staying indoors, choosing to stay in their homes or drive to higher elevations where storm shelters can be found. The winds toppled numerous trees and power lines, destroying the area’s hydroelectric dams, and it is unclear whether the wind-blown trees will cause permanent damage to the area’s infrastructure. “We’re on the phone to people all over the place, and we’re telling them to stay off the road,” Riverside County Fire Chief Daniel Hise said. “The trees are falling everywhere.” A few isolated areas have reported power outages,