Volume 15, Issue 75  |  September 19, 2023SubscribeAdvertise

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Dennis’ Tidbits


Fall and the Santana winds are just around the corner

Dennis 5First off, local ocean temps here on Sunday were at seasonal levels across the county, running at 68-72 degrees. As you know well by now, this summer has seen local ocean temps on a real roller coaster ride as local winds have been erratic to say the least. One day it’s a balmy 73 degrees, and two or three days later, it’s a burly 58 and then three or four days later, it’s all the way back up to 70. It’s been like that all summer. It’s all about the local wind direction and velocity. 

Former tropical storm Kay gave us a real lesson on just what sand migration is all about. Those relentless strong wind waves from that storm managed to eat away up to eight feet of sand in a matter of just 24-48 hours. There was a photo of Crystal Cove take from a drone around 300 feet up that completely told the story on how sand migration works when a severe angle – (165 degrees) SSE short interval (8-9 seconds) – with a 6.4 ft. high tide can move that much sand around in such a short time. It only gets that extreme just a handful of times a decade. That’s how rare that event is. 

Anytime now our first Santana wind event will occur when a strong high-pressure center takes up residence over Southern Utah or Southern Nevada. It sends hot dry winds from the northeast that funnel their way through our local passes and canyons – while at the same time, heating by significant compression. It eventually reaches our coastline and can produce temps as high as 100 degrees or greater at water’s edge. It’s a total reversal of heat distribution as the highest temps can be found right along the coast while desert communities can be as much as 10 to 15 degrees cooler – instead of the opposite when prevailing sea breezes greatly moderate temps here on the coast. 

The earlier in the season, the hotter the temps will be here at the beach. On September 19, 1939, an all-time high temp was recorded here in Laguna at a blistering 109 degrees with a record setting 119 degrees just up the road in Santa Ana, a record that still stands to this very day. A mere six days later a high-end tropical storm blew in making landfall near Long Beach. 

The average date for the first Santana wind event is around October 10, but the first one has happened as early as September 1, 1955 and the latest has occurred on Christmas Day in 2000. Here in Laguna, the normal humidity at 12 p.m. is around 50-60%, but when there’s a strong Santana, humidity levels can plunge down into single digits on a few occasions. That’s when the red flag is hoisted for dangerous and sometimes destructive wildfires exploding in all wilderness areas with dense bone-dry foliage. 

Look what happened on October 27, 1993 when half our town was torched with the total destruction of 435 homes including Tidbits’ home located at the end of Coronado Street high above the Sawdust grounds. The temp was 97 degrees, with a humidity of 7% right along the water’s edge with NE Santanas sometimes reaching 45 mph. The horrific blaze was started by an arsonist way out by the Laguna Canyon Road offramp of the 405 freeway. The exploding blaze was marching forward as much as 10 mph or more, chewing up everything in its sight. Thankfully no lives were lost. All I had left was the clothes on my back. What stung the most was three generations of my family photos plus all the family memorabilia. You can’t replace those!

See you in the fall, y’all! ALOHA!


Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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