Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Santa Anas Are Blowing


 You feel it too, don't you?  The way the winds have begun to take over again?  It's still "sunny and 72 in LA" but something is different and will be for a couple of months. The Santa Ana winds have returned like a dangerous ex bringing suggestion and possibility in from the desert.   People in the rest of this country sometimes dismiss LA as gross and vulgar, slippery, a great big show.  But not everything is on display here, despite the cameras that are seemingly everywhere, and when the Santa Anas start to blow you get a prickly sense of just how much has been hiding in plain site.

Here's how Raymond Chandler put it in his short story  "Red Wind" -

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

Perfect.

I had a nightmare last night. Something about having to be a 3 different places for Thanksgiving but one of the hosts turned out to be giving a test instead of a dinner and not only was I not prepared but also someone was chasing me.  Someone bad. I woke up breathless and scared.  Then I heard the winds blowing. 

What are the Santa Anas? The National Weather Service defines them as "Strong down slope winds that blow through the mountain passes in southern California. These winds, which can easily exceed 40 mph, are warm and dry and can severely exacerbate brush or forest fires, especially under drought conditions."  Here's the image the NWS put out on their site this morning, when extreme fire danger warnings went into effect

 The warning is currently expected to be in effect until at least 9pm tonight.


You may remember that in 2007 the Santa Anas were responsible for fanning the flames of the Corral Canyon fire in Malibu.  Check out this satellite image from NASA


That fire destroyed 53 homes and caused 14,000 people to be evacuated.  It was ignited when 5 men started an illegal, late-night camp fire in a cave in the Malibu hills, a known partying spot. 

Fire danger is real and it's everybody's job to be aware. Did you know that a hot exhaust system can start a fire when you park your car in dry grass? Keep this in mind if you are planning to hike in the canyons or park along the PCH. And I don't know about you, but on this warm, dry, almost no humidity day I look about 10 years older than I did in the fog last week and my hands feel like fine grain sand paper. Dehydration is a real threat to your health and the health of your kids and animals, so make sure everybody gets plenty of water.

And keep your wits about you.

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