Cambrian: Slice of Life

Coastal fog a refuge from North County’s sizzle

A ridge makes an island in the clouds off of Highway 46 West as the sun comes up and fog fills the Salinas River Valley in this photo from February 2006.
A ridge makes an island in the clouds off of Highway 46 West as the sun comes up and fog fills the Salinas River Valley in this photo from February 2006.

The Central Coast’s seasonal fog is nicknamed “May Gray” and “June Gloom.” But what should we call it in July and August?

In a Tribune column a year ago, PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey suggested “No-sky July” and “Fogust” to calendar-define the misty layer that often hovers over coastal regions in summer, playing keep-away with triple-digit temps that turn areas to the east into giant pizza ovens.

Of course, given the timing, we could just call the midsummer overcast “Fair Fog,” because if night and morning murkiness is bookending sunshine near the shore, the California Mid-State Fair is probably right around the corner.

On July 7, John said weather models show that valley temps during the fair are apt to be “terribly hot … way above normal,” with the potential for extreme “temperature whiplash” gradients between Paso and the coast. (Average fair-time temperature in Paso Robles, he said, is 92 degrees.)

Pray for fog, coastal folks.

Sure, if the overcast hangs around 24/7 for weeks on end, it can be boring, if not downright depressing. But coastside residents know that escape is nearby. For a psychological break, we can head inland, dip a toe into SPF 50 country and then scurry back home, wrapping our soothing fog blanket around us.

We also know that being in intense heat can be physically challenging, especially if you’re not used to it. When you go back and forth a lot, chilly to hot or the reverse, it can be brutal.

People who live someplace hot but work in air-conditioned buildings experience that contrast regularly. At my Phoenix high school, students went from 100-degrees-plus outside to 65 degrees inside the separate classroom buildings. In and out, in and out, class after class, day after day.

I got strep throat so many times, we finally gave up and moved. To Los Angeles.

There are obvious hints about adapting to and staying cool outside in the heat:

▪  Stay hydrated (duh!).

▪  Eat a Popsicle or drink icy peppermint tea.

▪  Hide from the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

▪  Eat small meals more often.

▪  Wear a lightweight, wide-brimmed hat.

▪  Wear loose, open-weave, light-colored cotton clothing.

But as we hurtle headlong toward the 2017 Mid-State Fair, I’ve gleaned from various sources some other weather-whiplash tips for everybody, especially for those who go between the microclimates of extreme heat and cool coastal weather:

1. If you live in cooler territory, John suggested that before you head to hot country, “keep your house warmer and wear a few layers of clothes” at home. Your body will adapt to higher temperatures, making it easier to handle the thermal gradients between the beaches and the valley.

2. He also recommends the Valsalva ear-pressure-equalizing maneuver to help prevent ear infections, especially from frequent hot-to-cold or elevation shifts. For details, go to http://bit.ly/2tDMgzw.

3. This one’s obvious: Wear insulating layers that can keep you warm at the coast, but which you can strip off when it’s toasty inland. Layer shirts, T-shirts, even vests. Gals can wear shorts or mini-skirts over removable tights. Then, when the thermometer takes a nosedive during nighttime performances, or you’re heading to cool country, put those layers back on.

4. Carry a lightweight, open-weave tote or manbag, rather than a heavy bag or backpack. Pare down to the basics.

5. Water-soaked cooling scarves and hats can help. So can a parasol or umbrella. Try a shirt made of special fabric designed to keep you cooler.

6. Use a hand fan to keep air moving. No, it’s not wimpy.

7. Evaporation cools. Keep an empty spray bottle in your tote. Fill it with cold water and spritz away on your face and arms (even your hair and clothing).

8. When you get to hot country, don’t immediately take off at full speed. Give yourself time to acclimate, preferably sitting in the shade, sipping a cool drink.

9. Hold an icy-cold bottle or can against your wrists, neck and temples. Then open the beverage and breathe in the cool air over the liquid.

10. Heading home? Cool off your car a bit first by rolling down one window, then opening and closing the opposite door a few times to force out some of the hottest air.

Then, when you get to the coast, be sure to take time to simply enjoy and appreciate the cool fog and marine layer … no matter what we call it.

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