Widespread Santa Ana winds, the strongest in five to ten years, pounded Southern California Wednesday night into Thursday, causing power outages for thousands and delays in the Los Angeles area.
The wind storm, which is set to peak from early Thursday well into Friday, knocked down trees and caused power outages for more than 80,000 people in Los Angeles Wednesday evening, CNN reported.
While meteorologists predicted that winds could reach up to 80 mph and about 60 mph near the coast, the National Weather Service recorded a gust of 97 mph near Simi Valley.
Delays for both incoming and outgoing flights were reported at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday evening. Airport officials said power outages were reported in passenger terminals and roads leading to the airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration said about 23 flights were diverted and two runways closed due to crosswinds and debris, The Associated Press reported.
Aircraft are now landing regularly. All four runways are now open and the winds have died down, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor told The AP. We're starting to bring the Ontario diversions into LAX, and are cautiously optimistic the worst wind conditions are behind us - for now.
Destroyed power lines in Los Angeles started a wildfire, encompassing nearly two acres near Occidental College, amidst the 80 mph winds. The Los Angeles County Fire Department evacuated the area, as a red flag warning was issued on Wednesday for potential fire danger. Air and ground officials put out the fire in less than two hours and no one was injured, The AP reported.
The weather service issued the red flag warning into late Friday for the Los Angeles area for potential fires fueled by the dry Santa Ana winds, common in the fall and winter in California.
California's fire protection service, CalFire, will respond to any wildfires, as spokesman Daniel Berlant told USA Today it is well prepared with additional staffing.
Trees were knocked down in the region due to the heavy winds. AM radio station KNX1070 lost power to its transmitter due to a fallen tree and was forced to stream online only.
A tree fell onto a gas pump at a Pasadena gas station, causing the business to shut off its pumps to prevent fuel leakage. Pasadena police told the Los Angeles Times that as many as 100 trees have fallen, leaving some areas with no power.
While the brunt of the storm will be in southern California, the Weather Channel reported wind advisories and warnings are in place in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
According to the National Weather Service, southern California is prone Santa Ana winds this time of year, where strong winds move into the region from nearby high and low pressure areas from inland desert areas, which speed up when moving through the mountains.