Sunday, November 16, 2008

It’s show time for dry climes, And bedlam is dreaming of rain

A great contributor to the danger of the Southern California fires, this week, and always, is the phenomenon of Santa Ana Winds.

Commentor, friend, and former San Fernando Valley resident Valley Girl writes a guest post covering the Santa Anas from several perspectives, inc. art, poetry, and meteorology:

Bedlam is Dreaming of Rain- The Santa Ana

Once again destructive fires are raging across Southern California. It's fire season, the time of the Santa Ana. Anyone who knows SoCal knows what the Santa Ana is. It's an ugly wind, a dry wind, one that can turn the smallest ember into a raging destructive fire. The human consequences are obvious, but not so obvious the fate of animals and household pets. The following is just a sample, but it goes out with thanks to all of the animal shelters and private animal hospitals who are stepping up to help:

VCA Animal Hospitals Offers Free Boarding for Pets Affected by Southern California Fires

Horses and other large animals were being taken to a makeshift shelter in Hansen Dam Park. A mobile kennel was set up at Sylmar High School, and small pets can be taken to the Mission animal shelter

At the Brea Community Center, 230 evacuated residents signed in for help, 65 stayed overnight, said Anthony Godoy, a Brea accountant acting as shelter manager. The center also was temporarily housing small pets, including 18 dogs and two cats.

Sylmar Fire: Animal Evacuations LA CITY DEPT. OF ANIMAL SERVICES Officers will try to pick up pets from fire areas and take them to shelters for care, according to the Los Angeles City Department of Animal Services.

"This is the official theme song for southern california fires" a commenter said in response to the YouTube. People may take offense at this, but as a Valley Girl, I'd say it's apt. As are the visuals in the YouTube. Let me repeat, the Santa Ana is an ugly and destructive wind, and creates bedlam both externally and internally. It whips up the dirt and dust and pushes it right under your skin.

Bad Religion and Los Angeles is burning" Click on the link for the full lyrics.

~~GROWING up in West Hills, Brett Gurewitz learned that Los Angeles was a more unruly beast than the far-off cities he read about in schoolbooks. “The telling thing about L.A. is the fact that it has a fire season. I’m a third-generation Angeleno, and proud of it, and if you grow up here you learn that fire is a cyclical thing. To me, it meant L.A. wasn’t quite tamed. Other cities, like New York and Paris, are settled and established – they long ago became docile, tamed things. Not Los Angeles.”

Gurewitz plays guitar in Bad Religion and writes many of its songs, which long ago established it as the most high-minded band among L.A.’s pioneer punks. In the fire season of 2004, Gurewitz watched the blazes on TV and in the vacuous news chatter he heard themes that would become the song “Los Angeles Is Burning.”~~

Somewhere high in the desert near a curtain of blue
St. Anne’s skirts are billowing
But down here in the city of limelights
The fans of Santa Ana are withering
And you can’t deny the living is easy
If you never look behind the scenery
It’s show time for dry climes
And bedlam is dreaming of rain.

Joan Didion captured this in 1967 in an essay "The Santa Ana" from "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"- snips:

~~There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night[...]

~~I recall being told, when I first moved to Los Angeles and was living on an isolated beach, that the Indians would throw themselves into the sea when the bad wind blew. I could see why. The Pacific turned ominously glossy during a Santa Ana period, and one woke in the night troubled not only by the peacocks screaming in the olive trees but by the eerie absence of surf. The heat was surreal. The sky had a yellow cast, the kind of light sometimes called "earthquake weather." My only neighbor would not come out of her house for days, and there were no lights at night, and her husband roamed the place with a machete. One day he would tell me that he had heard a trespasser, the next a rattlesnake.

~~"On nights like that," Raymond Chandler once wrote about the Santa Ana, "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." That was the kind of wind it was.~~

And, for a more scientific take, this is from NOAA

~~What are Santa Ana winds?

~~During the fall and early winter, high pressure over the high desert of the Great Basin region causes winds on the southern side of the high to blow from the east, toward the Pacific Ocean and lower air pressure offshore. The winds push dry air from the inland deserts of California and the Southwest over the mountains between coastal California and the deserts.

~~As the air descends from mountains, it is compressed and the temperatures increase. These hot, and very dry winds(relative humidty of 10 to 20% or lower are common) dry out vegetation, increasing the fuel available to feed fires. The gusty winds and eddies of winds swirling through canyons and valleys also fan flames and spread tinders.~~

Cross-posted at teh-kitteh-antidote-anecdote