Santa Ana winds knock out power to thousands across Southern California

Over 35,000 people had lost power in Southern California by late Thursday morning as gusts reached 40-60 mph around parts of the Los Angeles area, and even stronger gusts in the foothills and surrounding mountains.

LOS ANGELES – A strong Santa Ana wind event blew through Southern California Thursday, knocking out power to thousands and toppling trees as gusts registered over 80 mph in some spots.

Over 35,000 people had lost power in Southern California by 11:30 a.m PT, according to The number had dropped to around 20,000 by 4 p.m.

The winds were too much for a pair of trees in Pasadena, blocking roads until the city public works department could come and remove them. No injuries were reported.


Gusts reached over 80 mph in the San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino foothills. 

Marshall Peak hit a gust of 87 mph, while Fremont Canyon east of Santa Ana measured a gust of 80 mph, and Burbank clocked a gust of 67 mph and Santa Ana's John Wayne Airport hit a gust of 51 mph.

Due to the dangerous winds, the Los Angeles Zoo and Orange County Zoo both closed Thursday.

Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area were spared the worst winds, but will still saw gusts in the 30-40 mph range – enough to topple a tree into power lines in Santa Cruz County.

What's with the change in the weather?

After a soggy start to March with storm after storm, high pressure is finally setting up off the coast. At the same time, a chunk of energy separated from the jet stream and parked itself over the Desert Southwest. This is called a cutoff low. The low brought colder, denser air into the interior, increasing surface pressures, and that difference in pressure between the interior and coastal Southern California was the driving force for the strong wind. 

The strong dry winds usually present a high fire risk, but the parade of recent storms dropped enough rain to keep any sparks in check.

The cutoff low finally drifts farther south Friday, allowing the winds to diminish. Lighter offshore winds will continue through the weekend, though, warming daytime highs 5-10 degrees above normal for this time of year.