Commuters beware: High winds headed for Southern California this afternoon

Powerful winds are threatening to scramble the afternoon commute Thursday, March 30, in much of Southern California.

The strongest winds will make an appearance between 3 and 8 p.m., so meteorologists and public safety officials alike are trying to get the word out about a potentially hazardous drive home.

A patchwork of high wind warnings and wind advisories across Los Angeles County and the mountains and deserts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties warn of sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts could hit 80 mph along mountaintops and 45-55 mph in other areas.

Lighter winds around 10 to 20 mph are expected to blow in the Inland valleys and Orange County, with gusts to 30 or 40 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The Weather Service’s main concern is for motorists — especially those in high-profile vehicles — making their way through wind-prone areas like the Cajon Pass, said meteorologist Mark Moede.

“Those are the areas that we’ve got the greatest concern for damaging winds,” he said. “Also a possibility is the winds are going to pick up a lot of dust and sand, reducing visibility.”

The winds are coming from the west, Moede said, and will affect Southern California from the Mojave Desert down to Mexico.

They’re expected to be at their highest in the afternoon and evening but the blustery weather was already affecting the mountains and High Desert on Thursday morning.

Wind gusts of 51 mph in Whitewater east of Banning, 35 mph in Tonner Canyon west of Chino Hills and 30 mph in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains have been recorded, according to the National Weather Service.

The winds are expected to diminish overnight, but they won’t go away completely.

Moede said Santa Ana-type winds are to be expected in some of the region’s valleys on Friday morning — most likely between 7 a.m. and noon — but those winds won’t be half as strong as the ones expected in the desert Thursday evening.

“Places like Rialto and…

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