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Strong Winds Target Sierra Nevada, N. California

UPDATED 6:30 AM PST, November 22, 2013

UPDATED By WeatherBug Meteorologists, Andrew Rosenthal and James West


A small but potentially dangerous wind event is developing across parts of central and northern California through the beginning of the weekend, bringing gusts that could reach as high as 100 mph. Drivers across the Sierra Nevada are urged to use caution if they plan to head toward the slopes or Lake Tahoe.

Known as a Mono Wind, the gusty conditions occur when a strong area of high pressure in the western Great Basin comes into close proximity with a low pressure centered near Los Angeles. Similar to warm Santa Ana winds, the short distance between the two pressure centers, coupled with the high Sierra Nevada can cause winds to crank up past gale force.

The weather set-up through Saturday will be perfect for this to occur. A cold front moving across the Great Basin will push southward into southern California with a developing area of low pressure just offshore. At the same time, strong high pressure is diving southward from the Pacific Northwest, and parking itself just south of Lake Tahoe.

Particularly through tonight, increasing winds will filter through the canyons and over the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, being squeezed and causing the winds to increase further in intensity. In general, most areas of the Sierra Nevada will see gusts of 30 to 50 mph, but a few localized spots could see wind gusts that could reach as high as 100 mph.

As a result, a High Wind Warning has been issued from Sequoia National Park to Lassen Park, including Yosemite National Park and the passes along U.S. Route 50 and Interstate 80. Wind Advisories stretch from the northern coast of California to the Sierra Nevada foothills and into the San Francisco Bay Area. Oakland, Sacramento, Eureka, Redding, and Lake Tahoe are all under a Wind Advisory.

The strong winds are likely to cause damage to trees, particularly in open areas such as the recent forest fire burn zones and could produce waves of 3-to-6 feet on the lakes of the region. Be sure to take inside any holiday decorations so that they do not become airborne. Travel along the highways, particularly near the ridges, could be extremely difficult if not impossible, particularly for those in high-profile vehicles.

Two people have been killed as a result of the gusty winds in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Pacific Gas & Electric is reporting nearly 19,000 without power in Oakland, with more than 67,000 without power.

On Thursday, the winds cranked up to 41 mph in Pittsburg, with a 53 mph gust at Sonoma County Airport, and 55 mph at Petaluma Airport. Mill Creek in Lassen National Park reported a gust to 80 mph, while Cisco saw winds sustained at 43 mph. Saddleback has seen winds gust to 81 mph, while Duncan is at 78 mph. The good news is that the strong winds will subside on Saturday as the high pressure ambles inland and the pressure gradient is able to relax.

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