Weather in the Foothills

“Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes … The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms.”

~ Space Chronicles by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D, Astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History

Weather related disasters have dominated the news of recent. With no intention to minimalize the human tragedy and devastation caused by these events, I share the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson. The end of summer and into fall is the height of fire and hurricane season in the U.S.; wildfires are most common in the western states, while hurricanes mostly occur in the southeastern states. Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and our recent La Tuna Fire are only the beginning of a long season.

Presently, according to the U.S. Forest Service, 62 large active fires are burning across California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Many factors have played into these. First off, winter’s heavy snowfall led to an abundance of runoff water, thus allowing natural grasses to grow extra thick and tall. The weather turned hot and dry earlier than usual, causing the snow to melt faster than could be absorbed by the soil. A large high-pressure system reduced cloud cover and allowed for scorching hot temperatures, low humidity and below-average summer rainfall. Occurring thunderstorms have mostly been dry ones, with lightening being the dominant force. Combined, a natural tinderbox was in place. Don’t forget our Santa Ana winds!

Those living in the Foothills often say, “I’ll take the Santa Ana winds, but thank goodness we don’t get hurricanes.” But there was a time …

In 1858 on Oct. 2, according to many local newspaper accounts, a tropical cyclone- hurricane hit the coast of Southern California, primarily in San Diego. Observations from the U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Survey, and private individuals give credence to this rare weather event. Most damage came from the torrential rains. Roofs were lost, three schooners beached and a windmill was demolished. The prolific grape crop was mostly spared. Interestingly, the heavy rain turned the not-too-unsuccessful grain crop into a gold mine. Wine and a loaf of bread!

Hints of fall are in the air as a cooling trend settles in. A deepening marine layer and possible mist are forecast into next week. It’s time for a change … of season.


Sue Kilpatrick is a

Crescenta Valley resident and

Official Skywarn Spotter for the

National Weather Service. Reach her at