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The "devil winds" of So. California
In September through May Southern Californians prepare for the inevitable Santa Anas, the hot and dry winds which originate in the high deserts and move downward through the mountains toward the Pacific Ocean. They often put residents on edge because of wildfire threat, property damage from downed trees and power lines, respiratory problems, and the negative mood effects from the wind's positive ions. Gusts can exceed 80mph as the downdrafts are forced through narrow passes. Typically, these gusts are strongest from dusk to mid-morning. In areas already bone-dry from triple-digit summer heat, these winds can send a spark from a power line into dry grass and stoke a raging inferno within minutes. The blustery conditions further hamper efforts of firefighters and helicopters to squelch flames and put them in harm's way with unpredictable air movement. Unfortunately the Santa Anas linger during the peak of our normal fire season in October.
In Spring these drying winds can precede seasonal frosts causing irreparable damage to both agricultural crops and ornamental landscapes. Nurseries lose thousands of dollars in damaged goods. Electricity and water delivery may be out for days at a time in some areas, and insurance claims skyrocket as property is damaged by fallen trees and windblown debris. When the winds hits the coast, the moored boats in the marinas can sustain significant damage too. This is especially true on Catalina Island where the picturesque Avalon Harbor is impacted by both the pummeling gusts and the wind-driven waves.
Often the winds begin as a calming warm breeze with the tinkle of the garden's wind chimes, but soon it'll be time to take down the umbrellas and fasten down anything that's not securely anchored! I hope you enjoy my inspiration from the Santa Ana winds as I've tried to capture the progression in a series of haiku verses.
Warm fragrant blusters
The crashing of loose debris
Santa Ana winds.
Rattling dry fall leaves
A sleepy breeze stirs.
Prompt a chorus of wind chimes.
Wind's undaunted grip
Branches stripped from twisted limbs
Not a leaf is spared.
The giant's limbs tremble.
The lean willow bends with ease.
The blossomed bough quakes
A soft snow of white petals
Has been set adrift.
Winds blow with fury.
The gust pummels all, then rests.
It takes a deep breath.
A wind's fickle burst
Throws rain at my window's pane.
Wake up! March madness!
© 2011 Catherine Tally