Thursday, November 24, 2005 | In The New York Times, the story would read like this:
Sunstorms Subside in SoCal
SAN DIEGO, Nov. 24 – Weather forecasters say the recent 10-day blizzard of “sunstorms” appears to be ending just in time for the long holiday weekend, and San Diegans are not very thankful for it.
“Look at that,” said San Diego resident Marinda Robertson, gesturing at clouds streaming in from the Pacific Ocean across San Diego County, a coastal desert in the southwest corner of the United States, with a population of about two million. “Day before yesterday we had a huge sunstorm. I still don’t know how I got to work. Now tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and it’s supposed to rain. Go figure.”
Residents of this county say they dread the approach of November, with typical southwestern U.S. weather patterns that contribute to conditions, which they describe as “severe,” that create sunstorms.
“In the east,” Robertson said, “this is the time of year when you start getting snowstorms. We read about them in the papers all the time, and see them on the TV news. ‘Snowstorms paralyze New York; millions can’t get to work.’ But nobody ever reads about us and sunstorms.”
“Monday was awful,” said Kent Jacobs of La Mesa, an eastern San Diego suburb. Jacobs, like Robertson, was prowling supermarket aisles late Wednesday afternoon, looking for last-minute Thanksgiving items like clam juice and baking powder. “I went outside to get the paper just before dawn on Monday morning, and it was just so warm and crystal clear. Then I felt a little bit of east breeze, as balmy as the Bahamas. Right then I knew we were in for another one.”
According to Robertson, Jacobs and others, such a dawn will, by 7:30, have developed into a full-blown sunstorm, with temperatures already approaching the 80s, clear sky and a light breeze out of the east.
“You have no idea how impossible it is to get out the door, get in the car and head for work in a sunstorm,” Jacobs said. “Every bone in your body screams to be back on the veranda with a glass of iced tea.”
“I have to literally carry my children to the car,” said Robertson, a tanned, attractive woman wearing a cotton smock and mules. “Then walk them into the school, so they won’t curl up on the grass and go to sleep. Then I have to drive 14 miles into San Diego in the teeth of a sunstorm that should have kept everybody home. Does anybody care?” she said, examining limes. “Heck no.”
Robert Williams of La Jolla said the sunstorms had been raging for over a week.
“Can’t remember when they started,” Williams said. “I just know that by the end of last week, everyone was exhausted. A few people I know called in sick. Then Monday, when this new one blew in, well, I think we were starting to wonder how long we could go on.
“But, we do,” said Williams, a research scientist at the famed Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It’s part of the price we have to pay for living in Southern California. And, we are a tough people. We get through it. I think we just feel angry because we don’t get any credit for it. We would like to see a headline in The Times: ‘Millions fight through raging sunstorm to get to work.’”
Meteorologist C.E. Sitchler of the National Weather Service said autumn patterns of high pressure over the Southwest, occasionally extending out over the ocean, are to blame.
“Typical November weather in San Diego County,” Sitchler said. “We get some sunstorms in January and February, too, that stop people in their tracks. But it looks like this spell, at least, is over for the time being.”
“Yeah, right,” growled Marinda Robertson. “Just in time for a day we all get to stay home. They say it might even rain tomorrow, and on Friday, too.”
In fact a slight chance of rain was in the official forecast, from a low-pressure system working its way from the Pacific over San Diego County and northern Baja California. The low was scheduled to exit into Arizona by Saturday. And what about, Sitchler was asked, next week?
“High pressure building back in on Sunday, clear and warmer on Monday,” said the meteorologist, lowering his eyes.
Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.