Sunrise Santa Cruz is back and we are pumped-up and emotionally ready for our 2008 photo blog kickoff. We were going to start the year off with a world series from lovely Palm Desert but after the most powerful storm in the past five years slammed into the west coast late Thursday night we’ve got to go with what’s caliente-that’s “hot” for you non-Hebrew speakers.
Nothing turns me on more than relentless rain and hurricane-force winds coming in from the Gulf of Alaska, especially when they’re strong enough to topple trees-like the eugenia in my backyard. That’s right, during the peak of the storm on Friday morning, as we were being pelted by rain and winds blowing from 40 to 60 mph, yours truly was out there battling the minerals and elements as two huge branches of a tree in my backyard snapped like a Ritz cracker and landed on my neighbor’s roof. What happened next is like the old joke, “What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence? Time to get a new fence.” That’s right, the fence collapsed (see photo #2) and now I get to find out if it’s true that “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.”
The ocean was spectacular throughout the day on Friday and Saturday as the storm system brought on huge waves that battered the coastline. Meanwhile, gusts of winds were toppling trees throughout the county. We did not have power all day on Friday so the last shot is my fireplace which came in quite handy in providing three necessities needed during a power outage-light, heat and most importantly, smores.
These storms, which walloped the coast along with shutting down highways, closing bridges and brought close to 10 feet of snow to the Sierras, got me to thinking. What were the worst US winter storms in history? Here are my fave five.
We’ll start with the Great Blizzard (or milkshake) of 1888 also called the Great White Hurricane, which occurred on March 11-14 in the eastern United States. Snowfall of 40 to 50 inches was recorded over New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut as sustained winds created drifts as much as 50 feet. Total deaths are thought to have exceded 400 as most of the cities on the eastern seaboard were shut down for days, if not weeks. Today it would be marketed as “Snow Gone Wild.”
Number two goes to The Storm of the Century, which hit on March 11-15, 1993 once again in the eastern United States. This massive cyclonic storm had arms that at one point reached from Canada to Central America. More than 300 were killed as Alabama and Georgia were hit by as much as 6 inches of snow. It snows about as often in these parts as my rabbi invites me over for baby back ribs. Areas further south received up to 16 inches of snow as tornadoes, thunderstorms and non-stop square dancing broke out all over the south. In the northeast, record low temperatures were accompanied by large amount of snow and a run on mittens and booties, as more than 3.5 feet fell in some areas.
Number three goes to the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 that included heavy winds, rain and blizzard conditions that followed an extratropical cyclone as it moved through the eastern United States. Deaths totaled 353 and US insurance companies ended up paying more for damages than any other previous storms, including Led Zeppelin’s first US tour. Record cold was recorded in Florida (4 degrees), Georgia (3 degrees), Kentucky (-2 degrees) and Fort Lee, New Jersey (6 degrees of Kevin Bacon). .
Next up was the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, which was also known as the Freshwater Fury and the White Hurricane (not to be confused with the “White Shadow”). Also known as the Big Blow, this beauty hit the midwestern US and Ontario, Canada and may have been the worst winter storm on record (or as it would be classified now, CD). It killed more than 250, primarily from ships that were sunk. Five of the twelve ships downed by the storm were never found. Caused by the harmonic convergence of two storm fronts over the Great Lakes relatively warm waters, the storm generated 60-90 mph winds that lasted as long as 16 hours. Wind driven waves rose to 35 feet and whiteouts covered the region. With its counterclockwise winds, this was actually a hurricane.
Last but not least, our final winter blast was the Great Storm of 1975 that hit central and southeast US. The storm system resulted in snow in the midwest and 45 tornadoes in the southeast, killing a total of 70 people. Strangely, while the storm produced huge amounts of snow in the upper midwest, it also produced record high temperatures. As more than a foot of snow fell from Nebraska to Minnesota along with winds of 30-50 mph, record high temperatures were set in Chicago, Indianapolis and at a bagel shop in south Miami Beach. These conditions are not to be confused with your basic Mexican high and Canadian low.
So that’s it for our initial blast of 2008. After a day of driving rain and surging waves that battered the coast on Saturday, the sun made a brief appearance late in the day which created some spectacular cloud displays. We’ll take a look at that later in the month as next time we’ll journey to the desert for some sunrise/sunset vacation action. We also have lots of central coast sunrises and sunsets sitting on the tarmac-we’re just waiting for the go-ahead from air traffic control.
So I’m glad you’re on board for our 2008 journey because it is going to be wild. Just a reminder, I made it really easy like Sunday morning to leave a comment on the blog. Either way, enjoy the storm damage, the downed trees and the flames. And as our Governor Arnold “Terminator” Schwarzenegger once told me, “It’s good to be back.”