Hurricane strikes... San Diego?
When one thinks of California, the first thing that comes to mind is usually Hollywood: lights, fame, fortune. Even the ol' Beverly Hillbillies theme song mentioned ''swimming pools and movie stars.'' Of course the accompaniment of a banjo probably lacks little to be desired to those who are far too high class to drive a Toyota, but I digress.
What may not come to mind is tropical weather; unless of course by tropical you mean palm trees, beaches and sunshine, then by all means. However what I'm referring to is landfalling hurricanes.
Nonetheless, it's happened and it happened 155 years ago today: October 2, 1858. Below is a map of the estimated path of this hurricane.
The San Diego Herald reported, "About 11 o’clock a.m. of Saturday, 2d instant, a terrific gale sprung up from the S.S.E. and continued with perfect fury until about 5 P.M., when it somewhat abated, and rain commenced to fall. It blew with such violence, and the air was filled with such dense clouds of dust, that it was impossible to see across the Plaza, and it was with the greatest difficulty that pedestrians could walk the streets. The damage to property was considerable; houses were unroofed and blown down, trees uprooted, and fences destroyed. It is said to have been the severest gale ever witnessed in San Diego." (NHC, 1692).
Winds in San Diego were estimated around 75 mph sustained and damage totaling about $2 million. Of course the population of the entire area at that time was just over 4,000.
Since records have been kept, only four known tropical systems have ever impacted the southwestern United States and the hurricane of 1858 is the only known system to have directly landfalled in California with the other three hitting Mexico first.
It is exceedingly rare for tropical storms and hurricanes to hit California. The reason why is thanks to the very cold waters off the west coast from the Alaskan current. By the time storms reach these latitudes, storms have long run out of energy and are dissipating.
Next time you go to California, just remember that quakes may not be the only thing to worry about although you'd have a better chance of your vacation to Miami being cancelled by icy roads. Heck, even there in January of 1977 it snowed. So I supposed anything really can happen but I'm not packing scarves. I'll risk it.
Read the full article from the National Hurricane Center where I got all my aforementioned information: aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/chenowethlandsea.pdf. Very interesting.
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