Monday, October 22, 2007

It's Spooky Season

No, I'm not talking about Halloween. I'm talking about the weather. And the fires.

The fall has been freakish--cooling down to the high 60s (say 20 C for you metric types) and then jumping up again into the mid-80s (pushing 30 C).

Most of our weather here comes from the west; the winds blow in from the southwest, due west, or even northwest, but they tend to come from the Pacific. Every so often, though, in the fall or spring, we'll get a contrary wind, called the Santa Ana wind, that blows in hot from the high desert. If it gets going with any velocity, the whole sky roars, because the trees are unadapted to wind from that direction. If they were mammals, you'd say their fur was being rubbed the wrong direction.

We're having Santa Anas like I've never seen, hitting hurricane velocity in some areas. Trees are toppling. In a city north of here, windows have blown out. Temperatures are mid-80s right now, and are supposed to push 90 F (32 C) tomorrow, even here at the beach. Now, I know this is sunny Southern California and all, but this isn't normal for October.

The humidity has dropped to single digits. Step outside after washing your hair and it'll be dry in less than a minute. And, of course, after our second year of drought, that means Fire Season. Full force.

There are about 20 different fires burning, and although the nearest one is a good 15 miles away, we are ringed about 270 degrees by various fires. The whole world smells like a campfire, and you can see great towers of smoke coming from the fires and uniting to form a ceiling high above the whole Los Angeles Basin. It looks like something Sauron would organize to allow his orcs to march by day. It's bad enough that my eyes are puffy and watering as I type this.

Meanwhile, we were able to have fresh, California-grown strawberries at breakfast this morning. We have a long growing season here, but fresh berries in October...?

Well, I have to go outside and watch Armageddon a bit more. And then carve our traditional Halloween strawberry.

Two Hours Later: We own a house down in the Rancho Bernardo district of San Diego. Or at least I think we do. We just saw video on the web of houses burning on the street one block behind our San Diego house.

Most disturbing of all, though, is that the San Diego Wild Animal Park is in the path of the blaze. The breeding center for the California Condor. The White Rhino breeding center...They do have some fire-proof structures, and the large animal enclosures all have large ponds. But still...

Six Hours Later: Things are getting weirder by the minute. Dined al fresco at Luigi's down on Main Street in our shirtsleeves, listening to the palms trees growl in the wind. Atmosphere like, say, Rome in July, but substitute charred-wood smell for Vespa fumes. Our intrepid Huntington Beach surfers were still in the waves as dusk fell, even though half of every curl was being hammered into Japanward spray by the force of the Santa Anas. Our sidewalk is ankle-deep in mattresses of pine needles, even though we don't have a single pine tree. Nobody has any idea what the hell is going on. Least of all me.

Oh, and I almost forgot: The fire thae tore through Rancho Bernardo (and most probably ate our house) began out beyond the town of Ramona (if there still is a town of Ramona--they cleared the whole city and abandoned it to the fire early this morning) began in Witch Creek, and the whole blaze, which is marching as surely as General Sherman to the sea, is now officilly named The Witch Fire. Halloween indeed.

10 comments:

Janet said...

I was just reading about those fires and thinking, I think I'll stick with ice storms. I hope you're safe where you are.

David Isaak said...

Thanks, Janet. Yes, we're perfectly safe--there's 15 miles of dull suburbia between us and the nearest fire. And even if it somehow mahaged to get here, we could just go stand in the ocean--I'm pretty sure that won't burn!

But, man, what a disaster for the remaining wildlife down here...

Matt Curran said...

Hi David

I have everything crossed that the fires remain 15 miles from your home. I also have a childhood friend who has made his home in San Diego - so it's nervous times all round.

It seems the year for odd weather, doesn’t it? At least with the Sheffield floods they were constrained by gravity and geography. Unfortunately wild-fires tend be more unpredictable...

Take care

Matt

Jamie Ford said...

Hope your house is okay. That's all so surreal sounding.

Back in Hawaii one time there was a tsunami warning and they had to evacuate Waikiki beach. It was so weird to see no one walking around down there. Of course a few surfers just had to paddle over...

Halloween strawberry?

Jeremy James said...

Hope your house is OK in Rancho Bernardo. Unfortunately, that seems to be the place hardest hit in the county so far.

Fortunately we're near the beach and were able to host a couple of evacuees last night.

Jake Jesson said...

Christ. I suppose I'm lucky that I'm up in Berkeley...

I hope your property comes out okay, although of course that's not as important as, you know, you.

David Isaak said...

Matt--Whereabouts does your old pal live? (In land area, San Diego is one of the largest cities in the US. It's all over the place.)

Jamie-I was living on Oahu during a tsunami alert that evacuated Waikiki, too. And, being bozos, like most of the locals we hustled down to Diamond Head Road and clambered up the slope of the crater to watch. (Big disappointment. The water went up a couple of feet. The water went back down.)

Jeremy--glad to hear you're doing your part for the cause. And down where you live--you're right. That and downtown would be the last to go. (Though I heard they were evacuating Torrey Pines and a couple of other beach places, so apparently proximity to the Pacific isn't a guarantee.)

Jake--Actually, I'm sort of sorry you're missing all this. It's tragic, but also very surreal. Good material if you're in the mood for descriptive weather stuff.

David Thayer said...

It's sunny and 70 up here. Very weird.

Eliza Graham said...

Thinking of you, David. It looks VERY frightening on the TV.

David Isaak said...

Hi Eliza--

It's certainly very frightening to anyone in the path. Here where we live it's just a matter of headaches from the deardful air.