“Here comes those Santa Ana winds again…” Steely Dan
I love the Santa Ana winds. I love the way they blow all the smog and pollution far out over the ocean, leaving behind clear, clean and beautiful skies. You can see for miles and miles! And the lush San Gabriel Mountains, after a Santa Ana blows through they look so stately and picturesque and look so close that you could reach out and touch them. Absolutely beautiful.
I’ve spent my entire life in the San Gabriel Valley and have experienced the Santa Ana winds countless times. The destructive winds of the past few days are not our normal Santa Ana winds. No these devil winds were far too deadly with gusts up to 100 mph. I don’t understand the science behind Santa Ana’s, I only know that they form out over the high desert and blow into the valley through our mountain passes and canyons. Traditionally Santa Ana’s consist of warm air and the main force of the wind remains in the upper atmosphere. What we experience are crystal clear skies and strong warm breezes blowing through at a much steadier pace, gusting now and then, but nothing like the gale force winds we are currently experiencing. This killer wind with its cold, gale force may be Santa Ana related, but are definitely not your common variety Santa Ana’s.
I would have to say that the damage caused by these Santa Ana’s is by far the worst I’ve ever seen. I can recall only about four wind storms that blew in with this kind of force, but none have been nearly as destructive. The first really bad Santa Ana that I recall occurred in the autumn of 69 when I was about eighteen , I was still living in Azusa at the time. Late one autumn afternoon the winds kicked up and came billowing out of the mouth of the canyon. I’ll never forget sitting in my little room in the garage listening to the howling wind. Later that night, like fool, my cousin and I ventured out to survey the damage the wind was causing.
I remember driving slowly up Azusa Ave in my VW Bug being pushed around by the gusting wind. There weren’t many cars out, those we saw were driving as slowly as I was. The air was filled with debris, mostly leaves, and assorted trash. As we passed Benny’s Liquor Store a folding aluminum chair came tumbling through the air and I had to swerve to avoid being hit by it. I still don’t know what the hell we were even doing out there. It wasn’t the first foolish decision I’d ever made and certainly not the last.
A few seconds after the chair blew by my cousin pointed to the Rosales Market sign coming up on our left. The large metal sign that sat over the entrance to the store was rippling in the wind. As we watched a sudden gust ripped it loose from the roof and sent it hurtling through the air in our direction. I had just enough time to downshift and speed up as I swerved into the right lane. The sign narrowly missed us! You’d think that would have been our cue to turn around and head home, but Dave and I would not be deterred. We continued north on Azusa towards the canyon.
We were lucky that night. No trees, branches or other large debris fell on us or hit us. The worse thing that happened was when a number of palm fronds rained down upon us. That finally got our attention and we headed home. By the next day the winds had calmed down. The local news reported on the mess the winds had made across the valley. There were some fallen trees, broken branches and downed power lines, a few power outages, but nothing close to the devastation caused by our recent winds.
In the late 70’s I remember a freak wind blowing through one winter. It toppled a long line of power poles along Baseline Road in Upland and caused other minor damage. The picture on the front page of the paper showed perhaps a dozen and half poles knocked over, splintered near their base. It was pretty incredible! We did have a fence blow over and lost some roof shingles, but again, it was nothing like our recent experience. In the 90’s the killer winds struck again. I remember a few old oak trees and a number of large branches fell along San Dimas Ave blocking it for a day or two. And the City of Sierra Madre also had substantial damage, but the rest of the valley fared much better than it did yesterday.
This time the wind showed no mercy. Damage was widespread. Several cities are severely wind torn. Temple City had 21 power poles blown down. Tens of thousands of people are still without power. Many are homeless. It may be a week before all the power is finally restored and weeks before clean up is complete. No my friends, these were not the Santa Ana’s that I remember, no way. This was a wicked wind, a windstorm of destruction.
When I think of Santa Ana’s I will always think of warm breezes on an Autumn day, rich blue, smog free skies and unlimited visibility. I remember climbing up to 7 pines on Santa Ana days and looking out over the valley. It was incredible! We could see forever from up there! Okay, maybe not forever, but we could see all the way to Catalina! Truly Awesome! Yeah those are the kind of Santa Ana winds, I’m taking about… I love those Santa Ana days….