“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” ~ Maud Hart Lovelace, American author
The above quotation speaks of ideal June weather. Read further for two real life stories – one long ago and close to home and the other occurred just a few days ago in the Midwest.
Friday, June 17, 1859 – Santa Barbara, California
The day began as any other in the late spring along California’s Central Coast.
The fogbank dissipated early; nothing unusual here as summer was just a few days off. By early afternoon, the temperatures warmed to between 75 and 80 degrees. Then suddenly a blast of superheated air blew over the Santa Ynez Mountains. The skies darkened as a massive cloud of fine dirt and sand was picked up and driven by a blistering wind, descending on the Santa Barbara coastal area. By 2 p.m., the temperature exploded, reaching an out-of-this world 133 degrees! Most locals, anticipating the end had come, fled to the Old Mission and Our Lady of Sorrows church to pray. Others escaped to their thick earthen-walled adobe homes. Within a few hours, it was over and by sunset temperatures had dropped to a normal 77 degrees. It was of short duration, but not forgotten.
A U.S. coastal survey, located just off the coast at the time, recorded the temperatures. Local stories include these accounts: “Calves, rabbits and cattle died on their feet.” “All gardens were ruined.” “Birds fell dead from the sky.” “Grapes shriveled on the vine.” “People were found drown in wells seeking cool water.” “Fishermen came ashore deeply blistered.” Described by many as “hell on earth.”
This type of wind event is known to meteorologists as a “sundowner.” Our own Santa Ana winds differ in structure, time of year and location, but have many similarities.
Monday, June 16, 2014 – Pilgar, Nebraska
Rare twin tornados of equal size hit the ground one mile apart in Pilgar, Nebraska. Wind speeds have not been determined, but category F4-F5 is possible. Sadly two lives were lost and 75% of the small farm community was devastated.
Given our location, the weather is generally uneventful from one season to the next. A warming trend is expected to extend into next week, with days around 90 degrees and nights close to 60 degrees. Beach areas will remain foggy, while clear skies prevail over the foothills … A fitting start to summer!
Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley resident and Official Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service. Reach her at