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Winter Storms

I just want to write a brief note about winter weather in California tonight, because I keep getting emails from folks asking, “Are you OK?” :-) I mean “physically”.

The San Francisco Bay Area occasionally has what the rest of the country might call “weather”. I think winter storms are such a big deal in the Bay Area because, generally, we have some of the best overall weather in the continental United States. Some of the other places in the U.S. that have good weather also have: large mosquitos, carnivorous reptiles, or other hazards.

Starting on Thursday night, we have had a series of 3 storms that were the fiercest in 5 years. At one point at least, *ALL* roads through the Sierra were closed, a condition that happens roughly every 15 years. At one point, 3 tractor trailer trucks (semi’s) blew over on their sides on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge over San Francisco Bay, closing the bridge. On Friday, I AIMed with a friend of mine from Netscape days, who now works at Apple and is allowed to work from his home in Aptos (on the coast near Santa Cruz) on Fridays. He told me that Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains was closed both ways. Recorded wind gusts in the Sierra were up to 163 mph. Wind gusts in the Bay Area were up to 92 mph that I have heard about, but generally the highest gusts were 70-80 mph. My brother in the Sacramento area had 9 of his trees blow down, but none damaged his house. He was without electricity for 8 hours on Friday. According to some reports, Saturday found 450,000 Pacific Gas and Electric customers still without power, down from 1.6 million the day before. A ruptured levee caused flooding in Fernley, Nevada and a levee also ruptured in Santa Ana, in Southern California. The dangers of mudslides caused additional evacuations in Southern Calfornia canyons that were denuded by recent fires.

Weather forecasts had called for up to 8 inches of rain in the Bay Area and 8-10 feet of new snow in the Sierra.

Today’s thrill for us was 1 (count’em, 1) lightning flash followed by a great clap of thunder. I am from the Mid-West and know what thunderstorms are about – I sort of miss them a lot!

You have to understand. We get rain about 3 months (December, January, and February) of the year, and the rest is dry, except for the freak storm in, say, June. Even February can be a great “beach month” if it does not rain, because the sun is warm all year around, if you stay out of the wind. The 3 rainy months give us the water (rain and snow) that must last all year. California still “revolves around” water.

So, if you visit us in winter, be aware of the conditions that can exist. The California Highway Patrol warned people last night that travel in the mountains in the existing conditions could endanger their lives. Really. It seems that people have become so out-of-touch with their own biology and the real world that they stupidly forge ahead in life-threatening conditions, believing themselves to be invincible. They’re not. Occasionally you see them on TV, endangering rescue personnel, or read about them, posthumously (them, not you). Come and visit, but don’t be one of them.

Winter storms are nothing to underestimate, but at the same time, I know that my winters in California have been some of the mildest winters of my life. Perhaps a “common sense” approach is the main ingredient that is necessary.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo 

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