California wind, and fire danger, hits unprecedented high

Motorists on Highway 101 watch flames from the Thomas fire leap above the roadway north of Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. As many as five fires have closed highways, schools and museums, shut down production of TV series and cast a hazardous haze over the region. About 200,000 people were under evacuation orders. No deaths and only a few injuries were reported. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — Southern California has felt yellow wind, orange wind, and red wind. But never purple wind. Until now.

The color-coded system showing the expected strength of the wild winds driving the region’s fierce wildfires has reached uncharted territory. It has pushed past red, which means “high,” into purple, which means “extreme.”

State fire Director Ken Pimlott said Wednesday that purple has never been used before.

He says that means winds could blow at an astonishing 80 mph, a speed reaching hurricane strength.

The three major wildfires burning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties have already put tens of thousands of people under evacuation orders and destroyed nearly 200 homes and buildings.

Officials fearing things could get far worse issued a rare wind warning late Tuesday night to millions of cellphones from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

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