Santa Ana Winds
Santa Ana winds occur when there is a zone of high pressure in the high desert of Nevada or Utah and a zone of low pressure off of the coast of California. Air pressure always wants to equalize itself, so air from the high pressure zone moves toward the low pressure zone. The gusty wind gets funneled though the passes of the Transverse Ranges and roars to the coast. Sustained wind speeds are easily 25 to 40 miles per hour and gusts of 60 mph are common. Gusts above hurricane force have been recorded.
|This windmill is facing north, the direction from which Santa Ana winds come.|
Santa Ana winds occur in fall and winter and often follow the passage of a low front. They last for a few days at a time and there are multiple Santa Ana events per year. As mentioned above, they are usually warm to hot, though they can be chilly in the winter.
Smoke from a Santa Ana fed fire
Legend has it that people become more cranky during Santa Ana periods. I have never noticed a difference, though it seems reasonable that any kind of unfavorable weather could make people more unpleasant. Staying hydrated is reported to improve one's mood. To prevent dry, itchy skin, I run a humidifier during any kind of dry weather.
|This tree was planted too close to the power lines and had to be severely trimmed.|
Leaves of large-leaved plants like bananas and giant bird of paradise will get shredded during Santa Anas. It is recommended that plants like these be planted against the leeward side of buildings. That is probably of some help in less windy places but I doubt it is a complete solution in the more windy sites. The wind swirls around everywhere and still knocks over pots on the leeward side of my house on the leeward side of the hill.
|This tree blew over in a very strong Santa Ana episode.|
Don't forget the animals. Make sure that your pets and livestock have plenty of water. Double check automatic watering devices to make sure they are working. Make sure pets have shade during hot Santa Anas. They may appreciate a place to get out of the wind also. Keep bird baths filled.
For most people most of the time, there is nothing particularly dangerous about Santa Anas. They are at most an annoyance. They are somewhat unusual in that they are a storm accompanied by sunny weather. They are also very predictable in that they occur every year. You can't change the weather. The only thing you can change is your feelings toward it, so be prepared and you will minimize the hassle. Get your trimming done by early fall. If you have special wind chimes, windsocks, or banners, bring them inside. Close your patio umbrellas. Corral any lightweight items like bags, empty cans, and plastic flower pots. If you have allergy or asthma problems, make sure you have medicine on hand. If nothing else, go to the beach. The warmest and sunniest days of the year there are during hot Santa Anas.
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