Fire and frost warnings for SoCal; Mammoth gets fresh powder

Stock photo by Garry Knight via Flickr Creative Commons

Southern California could be in for a mix of fire weather and frost this week.

The National Weather Service says a fire weather watch is in place for the next few days as winds and dry conditions settle over Southern California, and a red flag warning is set for Thursday morning through Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Sukup told KPCC.

Winds of 15 to 25 miles per hour are expected to blow in from the northeast on Thursday and continue through Friday and even a little into Saturday, Sukup said. The shift in winds from out of the north to the northeast is bringing more dry air, he added.

Gusts could top 50 miles per hour in mountain areas, where drivers are urged to use caution, according to the Associated Press.

The winds aren't going to be unusually strong, Sukup said, but — when combined with single-digit humidity in the single digits — could make it much easier for fires to spread.

Meanwhile, a hard freeze warning is in effect for the Antelope Valley through early Thursday morning. Temperatures could drop to between 25 and 28 degrees for two hours or more and could fall below 25 degrees in some areas, according to the weather service.

Freezing temperatures pose a threat to crops, sensitive plants and outdoor pets and livestock. The weather service also warns that pipes can freeze and burst.

CJ's Organic Farm in Littlerock is one place being affected by the freezing temperatures. Co-owner Carrie Hernandez, her husband and their kids spend two hours covering their fragile greens, Hernandez told KPCC. They used to use old blankets, burt now they use burlap they get from a local brewery whenever they hear forecasts of subfreezing temperatures overnight, Hernandez told KPCC.

Covering plants at CJ's farm

They check three to four sources to find out the temperature, then assume it will be the lowest one, Hernandez said.

"We'd rather be prepared than sorry," Hernandez said.

The farm hasn't lost anything to the cold so far this year, Hernandez said, but that she learned the hard way last year about the need to protect your plants from the cold.

They try to grow things at this time of year that are adapted to functioning and growing in the cold, Hernandez said, but many of them still have to be covered.

"The leafy greens, you don't cover them — they freeze, and then defrost, and they're like mush," Hernandez said. "My best advice is, if you know you're going to need a heavy blanket that night, so do your plants."

The cold weather and recent storms have been good for ski resorts, however. Earlier this week a storm dropped between 20 and 36 inches of new snow on the mountain at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, according to resort spokesperson Lauren Burke.

Burke told KPCC it was "a legitimate mid-winter powder day, and there was just people hootin' and hollerin'. It was an amazing day."


The early snowfall prompted Mammoth and other resorts to start their seasons early. Last weekend, Mammoth saw more than 2,000 skiers each day, and that number is expected to grow as the season picks up, Burke says.

The ski resort has 26 trails open and five ski lifts running on Wednesday, she said.

"We're so grateful for any snowfall that we get, that, you know, the past couple storms have been so good, and it's kicked off the season in such a positive way, that we have our fingers crossed that El Niño is just going to continue to produce, and we'll be skiing and riding through the Fourth of July this year," Burke added.

Still, throughout most of Southern California, cooler daytime temperatures are forecast to hover in the 60s and 70s until the end of the week. Then temperatures should pick up again.

There'll also be a slight chance of rain Sunday night and into Monday, Sukup said, with a low-pressure system moving in and bringing an end to the fire weather threat — temporarily.  Another Santa Ana wind event is expected around the middle of next week, he added.

This story has been updated.