Here I go again, grumbling about things I have no control over. Well, consider this: maybe I grumble over these things because it aggravates me that I have no control over them. For example, one thing that irritates me is the fact that here we are in the middle of December and it feels like summer. Yeah, I know I live in L.A. and that’s what you have to expect when you live in what amounts to a resort, but still…
Last year we had a wonderfully cold and wet winter. It was great to feel that nip in the air and be able to dress in sweaters and coats. Nights were downright chilly so we made cozy log fires and had cocktails and it was all so, well, wintery. I thought, gee, this is what winters must be like in normal places. Silly me, I thought we’d come out of the drought of the past several years and now we could look forward to several winters of cool, seasonal weather. But no. We’re right back with the 80-plus degree days.
The weather experts blame all this on a remarkably persistent weather pattern that has developed across North America. We’re getting strong high pressure here on the West Coast and they predict that this wave pattern will essentially become locked in place for at least the next two weeks, maybe even longer. California (and much of the West Coast) will almost certainly experience an extended, multi-week warm and dry spell, while much of the East Coast shivers through repeated blasts of cold, Arctic air.
The heat has been accompanied by strong Santa Ana winds and this of course sets the stage for out of control wildfires, as common in Southern California as out of work actors. The first (and so far the worst) of these fires began last week in Ventura County, burning 70,000 acres, destroying homes and forcing more than 27,000 people to evacuate. This horrible fire is still raging on as I write this, but it was only the first.
Southern California has been under red-flag weather conditions since last Monday, with “the strongest and longest duration Santa Ana wind event we have seen so far this season” the National Weather Service said. So far we have five major wildfires going on. The latest has been off the 405 Freeway not far from the Getty Museum and the rich Bel-Air section of Los Angeles.
The L.A. Times has reported that this has been one of our state’s worst fire seasons. Hundreds of homes and other buildings have been destroyed, tens of thousands of people have had to evacuate, and thousands of acres have been enveloped. Happy Holidays everybody!
The high winds which are driving the fires are expected to strengthen in the coming days, with gusts of 60 miles per hour, making firefighting conditions much more difficult. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no containment as yet. No one knows how these fires got started, but as long as the dry and windy conditions continue we’ve got big trouble.
Yes, I’m grumbling, but I’ve got a right to grumble. My state is burning and there is nothing I or anyone else can do at this point to stop it. Firemen are coming in from other states to help our local guys fight these fires, but the reality is there are only so many resources available at any given time.
While the East Coast and other places to the north are chilly or downright cold, we swelter and burn down here in La La Land. There may be snow flurries in other parts of the country, but ash is raining down on us in Southern California. The air has been so bad they’re telling us to stay indoors if we can. People have been walking around with handkerchiefs and surgical masks and I can feel it in my throat and lungs over the last couple of days.
The air quality aside, I consider myself fortunate that our family and friends have not been directly impacted by these fires when so many others have. Sadly there’ll be no “White Christmas” in Southern California, gray ash is about as close as we’ll get. We’re having a red-hot December and that’s why I’m blue and grumpy.
Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.