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Near Hurricane Force Winds Howl At Mount Saint Helena; Temperatures Soar; Red Flag Wildfire Warning

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A strong high pressure system descended onto the San Francisco Bay Area Saturday, triggering powerful upper elevation winds, a Red Flag warning for the North and East Bay hills and sweltering temperatures for Mother's Day weekend.

The National Weather Service clocked strong winds on peaks across the Bay Area early Saturday. Mount Saint Helena had a gust of 73 mph, Mount Diablo 59 mph and Mount Tamalpais 29 mph.

Forecasters said as the system settles over the Bay Area Saturday and throughout the weekend, gusty winds will howl through the lower elevations and temperatures will soar. Oakland will be 14 degrees warmer Saturday than it was on Friday with temperatures in the 80s while San Francisco will be 11 degrees warmer with readings into the mid-70s.

The strong wind and plunging humidity levels were further drying out vegetation, putting local firefighters on high alert. With the Bay Area in the grip of extreme drought condition, hillsides were already covered with dead brush that has prime fuel for wildfires before with the winds arrived.

"Rarely in the first or second week of May are we being told by the National Weather Service that we have a Red Flag Warning for the East Bay hills," said Michael Hunt of the Oakland fire department.

The Red Flag warnings for the North and East Bay hills and the East Bay valleys -- one of the earliest in a decade -- will be in place through Monday morning.

As a precaution, fire stations around Oakland have extra staffing and CalOES is staging wildland fire engines around the Oakland Hills.

Joaquin Miller and other East Bay Regional Parks will be closed for Mother's Day Weekend, to reduce the possibility of fire ignition.

"It's concerning that we haven't had enough rain to go through a whole summer season," said Tiffany Dominguez of Oakland.

Oakland Fire typically doesn't start defensible space property inspections until Memorial Day but it is asking everyone to clear brush and debris away from their home now to be safe.

With this Red Flag warning, officials are worried about fire weather fatigue causing people to let their guard down as the season drags on.

"Our concern is exhaustion on the part of Oakland residents that they're gonna hear a lot of red flag warnings and a lot of notifications about taking extra precautions. We don't want anyone to take it lightly," Hunt said.

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