Good morning and welcome to summer. In honor of the Frankie Valli’s favorite season, we were going to look at six of my favorite beaches along the central coast. But the weather gods have been unusually active and the skies have been lit up around Monterey Bay. Here’s what’s gone down and or should I say gone up in smoke.
Around 2:30 pm on Friday I noticed some huge plumes of smoke in the sky. Since there was no Doobie Brothers concert scheduled that afternoon I immediately went on photo alert. It was an extremely hot afternoon-it seemed a little bit like earthquake weather as major smoke was billowing into the sky. It was somewhat surreal and horrific as I had just shot another major blaze the week before. I took the first photo from the wharf while at the time not knowing where the fire was blazing. All I knew is that somewhere people and animals were probably panicking. I later learned the flames forced the closing of a 5-mile stretch of Highway 1 creating even more chaos for residents in the area.
Out on the wharf I ran into a policeman I knew and he said the word on the street was that someone had deliberately set five different fires. My first thought was, what is this kind of evil doing in our golden state? We are in the midst of a horrible drought here on the central coast and haven’t had any rain since April 23. The ground and brush were dryer than a sports bar in Salt Lake City on a Saturday night. On May 22, a fire broke out in Corralitos which torched 4,270 acres and destroyed 35 homes. The cost of fighting that fire was $16 million. Then on June 11, a 520 acre blaze destroyed 3 homes and cost the state another $5 million to extinguish. And more fires were started by lightning on Saturday but that’s a subject we’ll take a look at on Wednesday.
Reports were that someone had witnessed a motorcyclist setting spot fires in four or five areas about 20 feet apart along Highway 1. Those small fires erupted into hundreds of acres within hours, racing up the hillsides, leaving panicked residents little time to collect their belongings and get out and leaving animals trapped with no way out. By this time, more than 600 firefighters had poured into the region. Meanwhile, temperatures were hitting a record 105 in Watsonville near where the fire was centered as the high heat, low humidity and lack of rain contributed to the fast moving blaze.
But luckily, thanks to numerous aircraft attacking the fire, from fixed-wing planes dropping retardant to helicopters dropping water, firefighters were able to control the blaze. But not without cost. This was a disaster for both humans and animals. Anxiety, shock, fear-these are just some of the emotions that go along with these tragedies when people lose their homes. Overall, the fire is out but it burned 630 acres and the loss of pets and homes in still smoldering in our south county.
It’s been a tad on the warm side as the thermometer hit 102 on Friday. I don’t want to say it was hot this day but I was sweating like Bear Stearns executive. It was so hot that I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking. That’s in comparison to last week when it was so windy that I saw Siamese twins looking for one another. Anyway, the all-time record for the warmest day in Santa Cruz was set back on September 7, 1904 when the thermometer hit 108 degrees.
So with any luck that’s our final look at any smoke on the water for this summer season. Coming up on Wednesday we’ll take a look at the very unusual weather that followed on Saturday. Oh, and by the way, the cormorant eggs have hatched along West Cliff and the proud parents and now sitting on the little ones. We’ll check our those youngsters on Friday. So have a magnificent Monday and enjoy the summer mode. Aloha, Tiger Woods fans.