Most of the month of September, it has been rather cool here. Locals have been talking about it and dire predictions of a harsh winter are being bandied about occasionally. It’s been cool enough that I haven’t been able to swim every day (72 with no humidity and a breeze is actually chilly) and I’ve definitely missed it.
Yup, I’m officially spoiled. Proof of that came when we got our first water bill for this place. It came after just over two months of living here, because the city wants to actually read the meter before sending the first bill, and they only do that every-other month. I was relieved that it was just over $80 a month, what with all the pool topping-off, excessive sprinkler use when we first moved in (bad programming), and Christopher’s penchant for long showers.
Being relieved at $80 a month for water and sewer is just twisted.
Anyway, so it’s been cool and I haven’t been swimming much. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I realized that I felt very uncomfortable sitting in my living room, writing something for work. It was about 2:30 or so, and suddenly I just felt odd. I got up to let a cat out and when I opened the door, it hit me: it was hot outside. After needing to wear socks (yes, another oddity, I rarely wear socks anymore) and a fleece jacket in the morning, it was shockingly hot in the afternoon. I was hot.
Time to welcome Santa Ana to the ‘hood.
The Santa Ana winds are an interesting meteorological event out here. We don’t get them as bad as LA, generally, but get them we do. What happens is that the winds come shooting down the mountains, from east to west (named for the Santa Ana Canyon where they’re really bad, apparently). As they increase in speed, they also compress the air, creating heat. One academic site says the rate of heating is 29F per mile of descent. The heat decreases the relative humidity (already low to start with) and you end up with one hell of a hot, dry wind blowing hard on you from the east/northeast.
A couple of days ago the high was barely 74 here. Today, it’s at least 90, if not higher, at our house (a smidge cooler right on the beach–and we’re not far from there). It’s got to be well over 90 inland. Hot. Dry.
The good thing about the Santa Ana is that it clears the air right out. The sky’s crystal blue and you can see forever.
Or you could, if the smoke didn’t get in the way.
One of the bad things about the Santa Ana is that it dries out the already dry vegetation, and any spark becomes a wildfire in no time at all. Then the winds just push it along, unstoppable, practically. That’s what’s happening in LA and Ventura counties right now, and what happened here in October, 2003.
Another bad thing they do is make people nuts. Raymond Chandler described the Santa Anas well:
those hot dry [winds] 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.
Apparently it has something to do with ionization as well as just the heat, but it affects some folk. Some people actually call in sick on Santa Ana days. Me, I just feel like I can’t get hydrated. I’m drinking water all the time but I still feel like the inside of my nose has been hit with a blowtorch and the back of my eyelids are suddenly made of fine grit sandpaper.
I guess it drives some of the wildlife nuts too. Just a few minutes ago I went outside to see how hot it felt, and looked at the cool, cool pool, seriously contemplating just falling in, dressed and all. But I didn’t. The ‘mow and blow’ folks had been by earlier, so there was plenty of crap floating on the surface. Normally, I wouldn’t care about the crap, because the pool guy also comes today and takes care of it, but I noticed something odd about one of the floaty things. I walked over a bit closer, and saw that it was an 8′ or so Alligator Lizard–looking quite dead. Poor beastie.
I grabbed the pole skimmer and went to fish it out. As I lifted its carcass from the water, it moved. It wasn’t dead–at least not entirely so. I lowered it to a cool shadow under a shrub, and it walked off the net, and into the brush. All proud of myself for saving its life, I decided to learn a bit more about the lizard.
In I went and found several sites devoted to the lizards of Southern California. I had no idea there were so many (there are several different species). One thing I read stood out: Alligator Lizards like pools when it’s hot. Apparently, in an attempt to save the beast’s life, all I ended up doing was ruining its swim.
Odd place, Southern California.