Thousands lose power in Southern California amid wildfire risk from Santa Ana winds

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LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Thousands of people in Southern California lost power Thanksgiving Day after a utility began shutting off electricity to prevent wildfires from being ignited by damage to power lines amid strong winds.

At least 5,000 customers in Los Angeles and Ventura counties lost electricity Thursday and more than 100,000 other customers are at risk of losing power, according to Southern Edison.

The utility on Thursday was weighing cutting power to more than 106,000 of its customers in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Kern, Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties.

As of 3:20 p.m., 5,056 customers — 2,041 customers in Los Angeles County and 3,015 in Ventura County — were without service, according to the utility.

“We understand these PSPS actions are disruptive to our customers—especially during the Thanksgiving holiday—and we are making every effort to reduce the impact,” Edison said in a statement.

The measures come as forecasters expect strong winds across Southern California, with humidity dropping to 10 to 25%. A red flag warning of extreme fire danger is in effect in a large swath of Southern California, where very dry conditions and Santa Ana winds were expected to last through Saturday.

According to the National Weather Service, mountain areas can expect 50-60 mph winds Thursday night through Friday. Valley communities could see 40-50 mph winds, while the coast may expect 30-45 mph winds.

Forecasters said there’s a high fire danger and risk of wildfire spread.

Santa Ana winds blow from the interior toward the coast, creating potentially critical fire conditions with the combination of vegetation-withering low humidity and powerful gusts, especially below mountain passes and canyons.

Common in the fall but possible at other times, the winds have fanned many catastrophic wildfires.

California has already experienced a disastrous year of wildfires that have left 31 people dead and some 10,400 structures damaged or destroyed.

Last month, Southern California Edison faced criticism for not immediately enforcing preemptive shutoffs that could’ve prevented a wildfire that destroyed part of the Irvine area. Utility officials defended their decision, saying wind speeds in the region didn’t initially reach the threshold to cut electricity.

For residents interested in checking if their area could be subject to potential power shutoffs, the utility has provided a resource to do so on its website, as well as text and email alerts.

NewsNation affiliate KTLA and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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