In November, Chris Arndt of SLOweather.com pointed out that Los Angeles has the Santa Anas and Santa Barbara has Sundowners. Both are known for blowing toward the ocean and heating up the air as they go. San Luis Obispo County can also get such winds. But why, Chris asked, wasn’t there a special name for our local downslope gusts?
Throughout the world, downslope winds have been given different names. Along the Rocky Mountains, they are known as Chinook — literally meaning “snow-eater.” In the Alps, they are referred to as föhn winds, a German phrase indicating a hot, down-flowing wind.
We put the question to Weather Watch readers. Since November, about 200 name suggestions, recommendations and even poems have been submitted. I was both amazed and appreciative at the number of suggestions and the thoughtfulness of the recommendations.
Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise; as I said in earlier columns, most of San Luis Obispo County resides in the Goldilocks Zone — not too cold, not too hot, but about just right. Except for the winter storms that roll in from the Pacific Ocean, San Luis Obispo has nearly perfect weather year-round.
All this beautiful weather allows for a great deal of outdoor activity. In fact, San Luis Obispo was recently cited as one of the most active cities in the nation. With so many people spending so much time outside, it’s probably made our community more aware of the nuances of our winds and the atmospheric conditions they produce.
Chris and I carefully evaluated and counted up all your suggested names and came up with the top five. Here’s your chance to vote for your favorite. Starting today, The Tribune will run a poll on its website, SanLuisObispo.com. Once a winning name is chosen, I’ll begin to refer to these winds by that name. Who knows, this name may actually stick.
Here are the top five choices.
• Santa Lucias. Reader 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?”
• Calientes. Roy wrote, “Two good reasons would be that Caliente Mountain is the highest peak in our county, and the Caliente Range is in the eastern part of our county, which happens to be the general direction that we would be promoting as the source of the winds.”
• Cuestas. Adam wrote, “Cuesta winds is a great, easy and brief name.” Others wrote in to say that Cuesta translates to “downhill” in Spanish. Like an old semi-truck rolling down the Cuesta Grade, air from the higher elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains will flow downward along the mountain slopes toward the Pacific Ocean.
• SLODowners. This name was recommended by many readers. This name and variances of it was the most popular.
• Santanas. Quite a few readers wrote in to say this was the original name of the Santa Ana winds in Southern California. Patrick said, “It’s about time we took it back.”
Today’s weather report
The Paso Robles Airport reported freezing fog Saturday morning as the air temperature and dew-point temperature both reached a low of 28 degrees.
A weak 1,014-millibar low-pressure system will spread light rain throughout the Central Coast this morning. Cold air trapped at the surface will bring light snow accumulations as low as 3,300 feet this morning. Rainfall totals should stay below a quarter of an inch for most San Luis Obispo County locations.
Partly cloudy and dry conditions will develop by this afternoon into Monday morning. Another weak weather system will produce showers by Monday evening into Tuesday morning. Once again, rainfall amounts will be light with less than a quarter of an inch expected.
Fresh to strong (19- to 31-mph) northerly winds will develop Tuesday afternoon and will produce partly cloudy skies and below-seasonal-normal temperatures.
Gentle to moderate (8- to 18-mph) and at times gusty northeasterly (offshore) winds will develop Wednesday. This offshore flow will produce a dry atmosphere and clear skies with warmer daytime temperatures Wednesday through Thursday.
Forecast models are indicating a very unsettled weather pattern beginning Friday. Potentially moderate precipitation is forecast for Friday through next weekend. Snow levels should drop to 4,500 feet. This wet pattern could continue into Christmas week.
Today’s surf report
Today’s 4-to 6-foot northwesterly (310-degree deep-water) swell (with an 8- to 15-second period will continue at this height and period through Monday.
A 10- to 12-foot northwesterly (305-degree deep-water) sea and swell (with a 5- to 15-second period) is forecast to arrive along the Pecho Coast on Tuesday, decreasing to 8 to 10 feet (with a 7- to 14-second period) Wednesday.
A 5- to 7-foot northwesterly (305-degree deep-water) swell (with an 11- to 13-second period) is forecast along our coastline Thursday.
A 12- to 14-foot northwesterly (295-degree deep-water) swell (with a 15- to 17-second period) is expected to reach our coastline Friday and Saturday.
Seawater temperatures will range between 56 and 58 degrees through Monday, decreasing to 55 and 57 degrees Tuesday and remaining at this level through Saturday.
If you have any questions about weather or this column, I would love to hear from you. You can also subscribe to my daily weather forecast by emailing me at PGEweather@pge.com.
John Lindsey’s column is special to The Tribune. He is a media relations representative for PG&E and longtime local meteorologist.