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Sunday, December 10, 2017


The Santa Ana winds are strong, extremely dry down-slope winds that originate inland and affect coastal Southern California and northern Baja California. They originate from cool, dry high-pressure air masses in the Great Basin. San Diego (upper left) and Ventura County (foreground).  

Wikipedia has compiled quite a list of essays, articles, lyrics and references in fictional works about the deadly Southern California weather phenomenon called Santa Ana winds.

The list includes many professional writers like Raymond Chandler, Brett Ellis and Joan Didion just for starters.  And lesser known writers continue to litter the internet with maudlin prose like tumbleweeds against the sea walls in San Diego.   Whoever heard of tumbleweeds along a beach anyway?

Perhaps Chandler is in first place with his 1938 detective story “Red Wind,” where he pens in part: “...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...

Then there is Janet Fitch’s 1999 depressing reference in her LA-based fiction “White Oleander:”  “Oleander time, she said. Lovers who kill each other now will blame it on the wind. 

In the ‘60s Joan Didion’s stylistic masterpiece “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” ends with her take on those devil winds:
“...violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”

Los Angeles—despite the moans of its literary class--isn’t the only area in Southern California impacted with the hot winds that are strong enough to blow down power lines that in turn torch canyons, empty lots and fields of weeds rural and urban alike.  And, that’s not mentioning in detail the sick minds of arsonists, who find twisted satisfaction in creating firestorms.  Bottom line: The entire state is a tinderbox and 2017 was particularly cruel to humans and animals wherever they live.

Dry tumbleweeds blown westward by seasonal Santa Ana winds from inland San Diego County line the beach along Mission Bay.  Photo: Gregg Rawlin.

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