Updated: Brush fire leads to evacuations; strong winds topple trees, cut power in Southern California (photos)

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UPDATE 6:45 p.m. A wildfire in Ventura County is burning through an orchard and bearing down on homes in the city of Fillmore, where TV news helicopter footage showed one house already burning and officials are telling residents to evacuate.

County fire spokesman Mike Lindbery tells KNBC-TV that firefighters are trying to get ahead of the blaze that is being pushed by wind gusts of up to 35 mph Monday. Flames had come within about a quarter-mile of a small housing development.

Lindbery urged residents of northern Fillmore, a city of 15,000, to collect their valuables and prepare to evacuate.

He did not immediately know the fire's size, or home many homes were threatened or evacuated.

The blaze began as a mobile home fire at about 4:30 p.m. then spread to the orchard.

UPDATE 6:03 p.m. Powerful winds raked much of California on Monday, toppling trees, causing scattered power outages, whipping up blinding dust storms and sending waves crashing ashore as a vigorous spring weather system swept through the state on its way across the West.

MAP: View a current map of Southern California Edison outages here

Almost 10,000 SoCal Edison customers were without power due to weather-related outages, with 13,000 LADWP customers without power. Wind toppled two trees at L.A. City Hall, blocking Main Street, KNX reported.

A power outage in Altadena affected more than 1,400 customers, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, while over 3,000 SoCal Edison customers lost power in Norwalk, accoding to the utility. One of the largest LADWP outages hit 9,000 in the Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown area.

The Ventura County Star, meanwhile, reported that power went out for about 1,100 Oxnard customers when heavy winds downed a power line: 

Southern California Edison first reported the outage at 1:15 p.m. Crews still were in the area about 2:30 p.m. working to restore power, said Nancy Williams, Edison region manager.

The northwest-to-north winds were punctuated with gusts topping 80 mph at some Southern California points.

At 2:40 p.m., the National Weather Service said its wind advisory for Los Angeles County would remain in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday. The NWS said to expect areas of north winds 15 to 25 mph, with gusts over 40 mph, with the winds strongest in the hills. Winds were expected to peak late Monday afternoon and evening before weakening late Monday night.

MAP: View a current map of LADWP outages here

The blustery system was being fueled by a cold front.

"It's just a cold, really strong upper low," said Carol Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, Calif.

Whitecaps flecked the Pacific Ocean along the California coast, where gale warnings and small craft advisories were posted. Recreational boaters were warned to stay in port. Wind-driven swells slapped over the tops of breakwaters and turned waves into a churning froth under piers at points such as Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach on the Los Angeles County coast.

Blowing dust forced the California Highway Patrol to close State Route 14 in the high desert Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles due to low visibility. Officer Michael Farrell said minor accidents occurred as motorists stopped on the road and were hit from behind by other cars. No major injuries were immediately reported.

Areas of the north San Fernando Valley experienced electrical outages as tree branches tangled with power lines in at least two areas, said Michelle Vargas, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. About 740 homes in Sylmar and 15 homes in Pacoima were affected.

Rising winds were reported in Arizona, where 34 miles of Interstate 40 near Winslow had to be closed to traffic, and in Colorado, where the blustery system was expected to bring up to 2 feet of snow. New Mexico was expected to start feeling the impact late Monday.

Northern California was first to feel the lashing blasts, which spread to the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

At least a dozen trees came down in San Francisco, police officer John Tozzini told KGO-TV, which reported that more than 20,000 utility customers lost power in the region. A swath of electrical outages occurred across the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Sacramento Bee reported.

About 2,700 homes were without power Monday afternoon because of at least five downed utility poles in the remote desert area of Borrego Springs in San Diego County, according to Amber Albrecht, spokeswoman for San Diego Gas and Electric.

Air quality alerts were issued for northern Santa Barbara County and adjacent southern San Luis Obispo County because of blowing dust and sand. In Phoenix, blowing dust obscured the mountains surrounding the city.

The massive rush of air also had an upside. California's main power grid manager, the Independent System Operator, reported that turbines spinning within the ISO grid produced a record of 4,196 megawatts at 6:44 p.m. Sunday. The previous record was 3,944 megawatts on March 3.

Previously: Strong winds have begun raking parts of Southern California.

The National Weather Service says the gusty northwest-to-north winds will become widespread across the region Monday and continue into the night.

RELATED: Hurricane force wind forecast for Southern California

Forecasters say mountain areas are expected to be hit with gusts up to 80 mph. Elsewhere, the Antelope Valley will have gusts to 70 mph, while coastal Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, the Santa Clarita Valley and parts of the San Fernando Valley could see gusts as high as 60 mph.

Meteorologists say all other areas can expect gusts between 40 mph and 55 mph.

Gale warnings and small craft advisories are in effect offshore.

The windy weather is also affecting Northern California, downing about a dozen trees in San Francisco and leaving about 20,000 customers in the region without electricity.

With contributions from Greg Risling, John Antczak, Paul Davenport, Walter Berry, and Colleen Slevin

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