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Red Flag Warning takes effect, prompts historic PG&E power shutoffs

Wind speeds will average around 20-30 mph, but gusts could be as high as 40-50 mph.

SACRAMENTO, California — The Red Flag Warning for extreme fire danger took effect Wednesday morning as winds started picking up as early as 4 a.m.

Winds are expected to pick up overnight and become worse. Wind speeds will average around 20-30 mph, but gusts could be as high as 40-50 mph. Tree branches, sticks, leaves, dust, pollen, and other miscellaneous debris may be on the roadways.  

The strongest winds will likely be between 10 p.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Thursday.

The humidity is also a big concern. Only 10 to 20 percent relative humidity is expected and some spots may be as low as 6 percent. Why is this important? A lower percentage makes it easier for grasses and vegetation to burn. Any spark may ignite a fire rapidly.

RELATED: Strong winds keep fire threat high, PG&E shutoffs expected through Thursday

Credit: KXTV


Low humidity coupled with the winds is the two big ingredients that lead to wildfires and their expansion.

Power outages are also making it dangerous on some roadways, with traffic lights being out and gas stations being closed. PG&E shut off power to more than 500,000 customers by 8 a.m. Wednesday. Power started being shut off just after midnight. 

As many as 800,000 customers may have their power shutoff over the next 24 hours as PG&E rolls out phase 2 of their Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). With each household and/or business averaging about 3 people, that puts those without power at around 2.4 million people.

READ ALSO: Authorities searching for person who shot at marked PG&E vehicle in Coulsa County

The Red Flag Warning is expected to expire Thursday around 5 p.m. as winds should slow down. At any point a Red Flag Warning or Wind Advisory may be extended.

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WATCH ALSO: Cal Fire spokesperson talks fire weather, wildfire prevention and PG&E power shutoffs