A weakening Hurricane Kay approaching California on Friday promised to bring cooler temperatures to the region while threatening to exacerbate the risk of wildfires across the state.
Cooler conditions were expected in the San Diego County mountains and deserts, but the coast and valleys will be warm with temperatures in the 80s and 90s for one more day.
“Warm, windy and humid today with rain bands and embedded thunderstorms moving into Southern California from northern Baja,” the National Weather Service office in San Diego said.
“Very strong and gusty east winds will impact the area today with widespread wind damage possible especially in the mountains. Heavy rain with the potential of flash flooding is most likely over the mountains and desert,” the agency added.
Gusty winds of up to 50 miles per hour from Kay were expected to fan the flames of the Fairview Fire, a raging 27,000-acre wildfire in Riverside County. The fire, which was 5% contained, could force 22,000 people to evacuate before the storm inundates the area with heavy rain, fire officials warned.
“We could go from a fire suppression event into significant rain, water rescues, mudslides, debris flows. We have challenging days ahead,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Veik of Cal Fire’s Riverside Unit on Thursday night during a community meeting.
The storm is expected to bring much-needed relief from the state’s days-long scorching heat wave as it diminishes in intensity on Friday and into the weekend while it moves toward the Pacific coast, threatening Baja California, parts of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest with flash flooding and mudslides.
“It will put an end to the heat wave. Today will be our last day of excessive heat here in central California,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill South. The storm “will move over us tomorrow and provide us with some cloud cover and maybe some light rain and much cooler temperatures.”
The forecast of cooler temperatures follows a string of days when conservation efforts helped the power grid avoid rotating outages, according to the California Independent System Operator, grid operator for most of the state.
Southern California Edison, which serves five million customers in the southern third of California, was considering shutting off power to about 50,000 customers on Friday in order to lessen the risk of power lines igniting wildfires.
“The utility’s concern is the short window of time before the rains start. We don’t want any of the utility’s equipment to cause wildfires during that time,” said company spokesman David Song.
The grid came close to imposing rotating outages on Tuesday, when power demand hit an all-time high and electric prices spiked to two-year highs.