Santa Anas Come a Blowin’ In


We’re getting some rough weather these next few days.  Granted, there is a sliding scale of what ‘rough weather’ means for California, but it’st still coming.  It isn’t snow, or rain, or hurricanes, or sharknados, but for Southern Californians, this is the most dangerous repeating weather occurrence we get.  It’s the Santa Ana Winds.  In the next couple days, we are in for a heck of a run of Santa Anas.

The Santa Anas are essentially winds that blow out to see originating in the high deserts.  Meteriologists tell us they start out as high pressure systems over the Mojave and the Great Basin around Bakersfield and that valley.  By the clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system, winds will come off the southern deserts and push over the mountains in whatever way they can.  Most of the time, that means cutting down the major canyons splitting up the San Gabriel Mountains to the East of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego Counties.

The Santa Anas cause problems in one of three ways.

First of all, they are basically funneled by the canyons.  So, with that, they pick up a lot of speed and come rushing through at high rates.  That’s the biggest threat this week, and there are some predictions places like where I live could see up to 70 mph gusts.

During the summers, Santa Anas usually bring an awful lot of heat with them.  They come off the desert screaming hot and can toast the area pretty quick.  Granted, it’s December and not the middle of summer right now, but the Santa Anas did cause the temps to get into the 100s this summer.  Plus right now, the nights are very cold – I had to turn on the heat this morning because the pup was complaining about it below in the 50s.

The third big problem is the relative humidity, or more specifically lack there of.  Of course, winds coming off a desert are going to be dry.  When they go over a mountain top and then rapidly spread out, the humidity spreads thin as well.  As such a Santa Ana wind is so dry sandpaper feels moist.  This morning, that’s what I really felt in the house – like I could drink my weight in water and not feel hydrated enough.

Those three things combined is the real danger.  Santa Ana Winds typically mean we are in for some fires.  Think about it – warm, dry, wind – that says ‘burn baby burn’ all over it.  There may not be an awful lot let to burn around me, but the red flag warnings are up across the whole area preparing us all for where a fire starts up.  Likely, by mid week the whole valley will smell like chestnuts roasting over an open fire … or maybe pine.

Yeah, this is a long way from blogging about NorEasters when I was in Boston, or the Pineapple Express we got up in Alaska; but the Santa Anas will be on our minds the next few days, and it will be interesting to see what comes of it all.



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