What should we call our Santa Anas?

pgeweather@pge.comNovember 17, 2012 

“Away out here they’ve got a name for rain and wind and fire. The rain is Tess, the fire's Joe, and they call the wind Maria. Maria blows the stars around and sets the clouds a-flyin’.  — From the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical “Paint Your Wagon.” 

In last week’s Weather Watch column, Chris Arndt of SLOweather.com asked if Los Angeles has the Santa Anas, Santa Barbara has the sundowners and the gold miners in “Paint Your Wagon” have the marias, why hasn’t someone given a special name for the San Luis Obispo County downslope winds?

As far as I can tell there’s really no reason we can’t name our local version of these katabatic winds.

Since last Sunday, the name suggestions and recommendations that I have received have been nothing short of captivating. 

Many readers came up with a version that incorporated SLO in the proposed names, such as SLOblow, SLOwinds, SLOdowns, down-SLO winds, or downSLOpes. Three readers so far have named SLO Downers as their favorite.

Adam wrote, “Cuesta winds is a great, easy, and brief name. Everyone understands it because we all travel down the Grade.” Sean thought Grade winds would be appropriate in honor of our beloved Cuesta Grade.

Other readers liked Santa Lucia winds. Chloe said, “Supposedly the Santa Ana winds were named after a mountain range in Southern California; shouldn’t we call our downslope winds after the mountain range that forms the great divide in San Luis Obispo County?” John in Santa Margarita thought the Los Padres winds was the pre-eminent choice.

Ty commented on the effects these downslope winds have on human behavior. “These winds are often associated with illnesses ranging from migraines to psychosis. A study by the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München found that suicide and accidents increased by 10 percent during föhn winds in Central Europe. When I spent some time in Bavaria in the ’70s, I heard that special consideration was given to people accused of murder and other crimes of passion committed during föhn winds, since ‘everybody knew’ that people get a little crazy at such times.”

He and a few other readers voted for Santa Ana winds, because that is probably the name most widely used at the moment.

Tony’s suggestion is simply, easterlies. “The terms ‘onshore’ and ‘offshore’ as applied to winds are confusing in two ways: the terms are vague and fuzzy in themselves (offshore sounds like it could be inland) and especially so since those terms don’t define the perspective from which the winds are considered — are we talking the direction the winds are blowing from or blowing to? Calling the winds easterlies when we are used to prevailing westerly winds would solve both problems.”

Rusty proposed Estero winds. “I’m a local surfer and have noted over the years that the strongest local northeasterly winds come out of the passes and valleys leading into Estero Bay — primarily Morro Creek, Old Creek, Montecito Creek, Torro Creek and Cayucos Creek. These locales around Estero Bay can have very strong northeasterly winds while at the same time other areas to the north (Cambria/San Simeon) and south (San Luis Bay/Pismo) are relatively calm.”

Two readers liked canyon winds. Mick said, “It’s applicable wherever they occur without getting hung up on the local geography.” Jim suggested “the morros blast” would be appropriate for the wind that brings San Luis Obispo County those extremely hot days.

Along those lines, Leroy suggested the Chorros. “In Spanish, chorro means ‘jet.’ The winds are like a jet sometimes. Plus, it is a creek near Cal Poly where these winds can be particularly strong and hot.” 

Trey came up with some other interesting Spanish names such as calidos (Spanish form of warm, or “calientes”) or del estes (of the east). Patti also liked calientes, because it sure is hot usually when they blow!  Pandora suggested el viento or viento grande or viento costero. Melissa wrote in: “When I think of hot, dry winds here I think of the Las Pilitas Fire winds.”

The Las Pilitas Fire burned 75,000 acres in San Luis Obispo County in 1985, threatening Cal Poly and the city of San Luis Obispo before it was stopped. 

In honor of our local wine industry, Jim proposed “The Central Coast Crush.” Other names suggestions were diablos, moondoggies, Chumash, condor, fog-stopper, surfer and Margarita winds.

Here’s your chance for some local meteorological immortality. If you have a suggestion, please write me an email at pgeweather@pge.com. After we get the suggestions together, Chris will post them on SLOweather.com and give everyone a chance to vote for their favorite. After Chris gets the top five choices, The Tribune will post them on its website, SanLuisObispo.com, for a final vote.

Today’s forecast
As of 11 a.m. Saturday, some of the higher rainfall amounts since Friday have reached two inches.  Rocky Butte near San Simeon has recorded 2.01 inches of rain, while Tim’s Home on top of the Irish Hills reported 1.80 inches. Davis Peak weather Station also in the Irish Hills has reached 1.14 inches of precipitation.

A fast-moving cold front will move over the Central Coast this morning with more rain showers and gentle to moderate (8- to 18-mph) southerly winds. A few rain showers may linger into this afternoon, ending by tonight. Snow levels will generally be above 5,000 feet.

Mild temperatures are expected today with overnight temperatures into Monday slightly cooler because of the reduced cloud cover. However, patchy fog may develop in the valleys.

Monday and Tuesday will be dry with near normal temperatures for this time of year with gentle winds and mostly clear skies. 

Wednesday will become increasingly cloudy as another frontal system moves southeastward over the Central Coast, bringing the chance for a few rain showers. Snow levels will likely be above 7,000 feet for this mild system.

A ridge of high pressure will build over the West Coast of the United States on Thanksgiving Day through the holiday weekend. This condition will produce gusty night and morning northeasterly (offshore) winds. These offshore winds will produce fair and dry conditions on Thanksgiving Day through next Sunday. 

Today’s surf report:
This morning’s 5- to 7-foot northwesterly (305-degree deep-water) swell (with a 15- to17-second period) will build to 8 to 10 feet (with a 14- to 16-second period) on this afternoon through tonight.

This northwesterly (300-degree deep-water) swell will decrease to 6 to 8 feet (with a 13- to 15-second period) Monday, further decreasing to 4 to 6 feet (with an 11- to 13-second period) Tuesday.

A 7- to 9-foot west-northwesterly (285-degree deep-water) swell (with an 11- to 14-second period) will arrive along our coastline on Wednesday and will remain at this height and period through Thursday.  

Increasing afternoon northwesterly winds will generate a 3- to 5-foot northwesterly (310-degree deep-water) sea and swell (with a 5- to 12-second period) Friday through next Sunday.

Seawater temperatures
Seawater temperatures will range between 57 and 60 degrees through Wednesday. Seawater temperatures will decrease to 57 and 59 degrees Thursday and will remain at this range through next Sunday.


•  •  •
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John Lindsey’s column is special to The Tribune. He is a media relations representative for PG&E and a longtime local meteorologist. If you have a question, send him an email at pgeweather@pge.com.

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