“I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Day of Sunshine”
Wind … I have always loved the sound of the wind. There seems to be spiritual element interwoven within each gust blowing through the trees. Yet, on the other hand, the sound of wind may bring fear and a reality of impending disaster. Growing up in La Crescenta, I think I have experienced every type of wind scenario Santa Anas can deliver – fire, power outages and downed trees. Upon hearing the first rustle of leaves, my energy and excitement grew while at the same time, my mom would become increasingly more anxious. The reason for the extreme difference in reaction is a simple one – she grew up in Kansas. No, her name is not Dorothy (although, her little sister’s was!). Strong winds in the Midwest can mean tornados leading to mass destruction and loss of life. In Southern California intense Santa Ana winds can devastate property, but is rarely accompanied by loss of life.
For the past week the winds have been a dominant weather factor. At their onset, the direction was from the north and is referred to as a “northerly;” when they blow southward along the coast they are typically cool and moist. Seemingly within hours last Friday, the wind’s trajectory shifted to one from the northeast. Warm Santa Anas howled across the foothills. The reason? A large area of high atmospheric pressure had formed over most of Nevada, half of Utah and small portions of Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and along the eastern boundary of California; together, they comprise the Great Basin region. The vast area is the birthplace of the northeasterly or more commonly known Santa Anna winds. The location from which the wind comes determines its meteorological type or name. The Great Basin is located to the NE of us, so comes “our winds.” To be even more specific, depending on where in the world they blow, names for NE winds vary. For example, at our location the name is “Santa Ana.” Others include “Sundowner” – California Central Coast, “Diablo” – S.F. Bay, “Helm” – England, “Nor’easter” – New England and “Norte” – Mexico.
Enough scientific information for now.
The following is a true story of the “Lassie” variety. Remember the famous TV canine that continuously rescued Timmy? On Friday night near midnight our patio doors were opened, as the evening was warm. The winds started up with intermittent, but strong, gusts. Being a night owl, I was still up as were the dogs. Micky, the corgi-mix, and Abby, the golden, stood guard as the night sounds, primarily the wind, prevented sleep. A large raccoon raced across the roof and out the door the dogs bounded, barking all the way. Their barking intensified and continued, but the ’coon was long gone. Doug was alerted (awakened.) Drawn outside to quiet the yapping dogs, our attention was immediately drawn to bright flashes of light resembling fireworks coming from down the street. Then we saw a backyard pine tree catch fire. Doug ran to alert the neighbors and I called 9-1-1. Like most families with young children, they were fast asleep until awakened by Doug and fire trucks. After hearing the details of us first seeing the fire, neighbors proclaimed Abby and Micky heroes. Downed power lines had sparked the fire.
Cooler temperatures, low clouds and a very slight chance of showers are predicted for the weekend. Next week, gusty winds and warmer temperatures return once again.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.