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Weather Watch: California Weird

As has become the pattern in Southern California, September has brought triple-digit heat to inland areas. Kevin reports triple-digits in San Jose, but it was Greg’s report that made me pause: triple-digit heat in Berkeley. Berkeley!

Port Hueneme has been spared the worst. I’ve been crediting Hurricane Lidia – though you’d think that overcast would cover more of Southern California. Along with the cool air, we’ve had some fantastic sunsets:

LidiaSunset

Many will recognize these clouds, of course: warm, humid air condensing as the sun sets, with rain overnight, and possibly thunderstorms.

So I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised this afternoon.

It was hot at 9AM in Oxnard, forcing the passengers under the overpass while waiting for the train to arrive. The bike ride through Santa Barbara to Ecstatic Dance was also sweltering. After the dance, the gentle slope toward the shore was a relief, and after lunch a cool breeze blew in my face as I rode down to the Art Walk.

After a quick stop an John Grandfield’s booth, I found a wonderful surprise at Steve Richardson’s booth. He found inspiration in the legend of the Black Madonna, and I bought two pieces that I’ll write up after he brings them down on Tuesday. While I was talking to Steve, Mandy Starr was packing up her booth, looking at the gray wall heading down from the hills. Steve and I teased her, but she had the right idea.

Guessing that the Art Walk would be rolling up, I rushed down to Neal Crosbie’s booth. I had just arrived when the rain started. It was a downpour reminiscent of a Hawaiian squall. I tried to help Neal keep the water from splashing on his work, and then realized that my bike was getting soaked – along with the backpack in the basket. I had just pulled it under the tarp when the wind hit, the gust blowing over most of the stands.

It was a funnel: dirty water came down in sheets. Half of the tarp blew off, and we were both soaked to the skin in ten seconds. I tried to hold the tarp down over the art as Neal loosened the stays. With the art covered, we were left unprotected in the deluge. Two minutes later, the black, foamy water was up to the curb. In retrospect, it was shore water lifted by the funnel and thrown back onto land.

Neal was stranded, his wife having taken the car in to work that afternoon, so I abandoned him to find some cover. While I didn’t see any downed power lines, a number of anchor cables had snapped off the poles. The entire downtown area was without power. This was a typical scene:

WaterFunnelAftermath

I passed one young lady walking in a single sandal. She had been on the beach when the funnel hit, and the second had blown into the harbor. I had word from Steve later that they fished fifty-six people out of the water – I would guess many from overturned boats and kayaks.

When I got back to the train station, I discovered a downed light stanchion and fallen tree over the near tracks. I walked my bike into the stall in the men’s room and wrung out my clothes. My train ticket was soaked with muddy water in the bottom of the bike basket, but fortunately the water had not reached my spare shirt.

The station crew cleared the rail blockage and the north-bound rolled in around 2:45. I biked back to the Art Walk to check on my friends. The oil painters hadn’t lost much, but Ping’s rice-paper water colors were a complete loss from exposure to the filthy water.

Arriving back at the station around 3:30, I looked up the tracks to see the north-bound stalled just outside the station. Blocked by fallen trees, it backed up, and around 4:40 become the south-bound 1790. I don’t know what happened to the north-bound passengers in Santa Barbara, but I arrived back in Oxnard around 6PM.

I’m supposed to be up in Pinecrest for the Soul Play Fall Fest from 9/13 to 9/19. I’m hoping that things will have quieted on the weather front. Greg says that temperatures in Berkeley are supposed to drop back into the 70s by mid-week. But I remember several years back when SoCal had temperatures in the 90’s into December. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but without expectations. Just as long as I don’t find myself driving into a forest fire, I guess that I’ll be all right.

2 thoughts on “Weather Watch: California Weird

    • I’m afraid that it’s just the beginning. On the eastern side of the Rockies, it’s the air falling off the Rockies that generates tornadoes over the Great Plains. We may continue to see this happening over the shallow bays south of Monterey.

      Ping had just returned from China where the stifling heat had made him sick. He says conditions in Santa Barbara were similar. He reported that nothing like this had ever happened in thirty years on the Art Walk, and wondered bitterly when politicians would stop resisting action on Global Warming. My concern is that another such event could kill the Art Walk, and that the probabilities seem to trend that way.

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