Wind is messy!

While strong Santa Anna Winds were blowing through Los Angeles four hundred miles to the south, and Storm Ciara was arriving in Scotland and Norway, we were getting some remarkably strong winds of our own. They were not nearly as strong as winds that were causing so much damage in Europe, and involved no flooding rain, but they were dangerously messy nonetheless.

We live and work among dense forests of coastal redwood, the tallest tree species in the World. Beyond the upper edge of the redwood forests are more forests of huge Ponderosa pine. Huge Douglas fir are mixed throughout. Their understory includes trees that would be considered to be massive anywhere else, such as coast live oak, tanoak, Shreve oak, bay laurel and madrone.

Such big trees drop big limb, and in abundance. Furthermore, limbs that fall from such great heights are significantly more dangerous than those that fall from smaller trees that are closer to the ground. They gather major inertia on the way down. They do not necessarily fall straight down either, but can get blown significant distances to where falling limbs may not be expected.

While the winds were blowing through, I could hear crashing of falling limbs and entire trees from the mostly deciduous riparian forest outside. I know that many of the big cottonwoods, box elders, willows, alders and sycamores are deteriorating, but did not expect so many to be blown down while bare. I suspected damage would be worse among the bigger and evergreen trees.

The pile to the left in the picture above is just the debris that was collected last Monday (while I was conveniently not here to help). It is more spread out but at least twice as voluminous as the pile on the right, which is pruning debris that took me several days prior to the wind to collect. The green cargo containers in the background demonstrate how big the piles of debris are.

More debris was collected on Tuesday (while I was still doing other work). The mess was not the worst of it. The roofs of a few buildings were impaled by falling limbs. Some of the damage is significant. Fortunately, the only big trees that fell did so into forested areas where there are no buildings, and electrical service was disrupted for less than a day. No injuries were reported.

29 thoughts on “Blow Out

  1. It seems big trees, big damage. It is certainly something different to compare your damage in California and ours in Europe. Our main problem after the winds seems to be the flooding that occurred in some countries.

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    1. Ours was locally isolated. So was the damage from the Santa Anna Winds down south. Neither event affected large areas like Scotland or Norway . . . or all of Europe. Weather that is considered to be normal there would be devastating here. Something as simple as ‘light’ snow is very damaging to redwoods, which can not tolerate the weight. It sometimes snows very lightly up on Summit, and it brings down huge volumes of debris from both redwoods and firs. It is harmless to the trees, but very messy and VERY dangerous below.

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    1. Well, weather changes like the . . . weather. When I was younger, and more of the older people were still around, I was regularly reminded that these things have always happened all through history. The problem here is that there are now a million people in the way of whatever happens. When the Guadalupe River floods, it affects huge neighborhoods that had formerly been orchards (where no one minded the floods). Forest fires that burned uninhabited regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains limited the combustibility for subsequent fires, and did not bother many people. (Fires were neither as hot nor as dangerous.) Nowadays, there are too many people here to get out of the way of such fires, and the fires are devastatingly hot because they are so infrequent. When I see historic pictures of the flooding of Alviso, or how almost all of downtown Los Gatos was burned to the ground on two separate occasions, I do not want to complain about the weather or the innate risks of living here.

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      1. Very true Tony. Thousands of years ago the Aboriginal tribes used fire to control undergrowth and that would create new growth that would bring the grazing back for kangaroos and wallabies 🦘🦘🦘of course, as you say, not so many people to get out of the way if it got out of control.
        An old Yorkshire saying…. “we’ll weather the weather, what ever the weather, whether we like it or not”

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  2. It’s ice that often does in our trees, partly because many people don’t trim them regularly. The power companies do a pretty good job of keeping those large limbs away from electrical lines, but many homeowners have had unfortunate experiences.

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    1. For trees that are hundreds of feet tall, it is impossible to prune all the risk away. Goodness, if we had ice here, it would be devastating. Even light snow mixed with redwoods is very messy and very dangerous!


      1. Yes, we do get Santa Ana winds in Southern California. They usually come in the fall and bring hot, dry air. At this time of year, they are often stronger, and cooler, but from the Great Basin as in the fall. It was the same weather pattern — I believe it began in your area, and moved south with the jet stream, affecting the Greater LA area, then moving off to the east.

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      2. I think it may have been two separate fronts a day or so apart! I should have mentioned, too, that I am in the southern end of the “Greater LA area.” There’s really no gap between LA and Orange County any longer!

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      3. Oh, of course. I keep thinking that you are in Santa Barbara County rather than Orange County. I got the impression that there were two separate weather patterns, and that the first one that was expected to be windy passed through without much drama, . . . until it got there.


      4. Sorry — that’s my fault! I live in South Orange County, but grew up in Santa Barbara — and I visit SB about every 3 months for a week or so. And for some time I lived in Pasadena and in Carson along the way, as well as now the last 30 years in OC!

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      5. Our climate and Santa Barbara’s are very similar — I’m about 10 miles inland from the ocean, so have a climate moderated by the sea. The major difference is that Santa Barbara is just south of Point Concepcion — the weather often misses Santa Barbara as it comes southward around the corner, and then comes ashore again between Ventura and Malibu == we often get rain or even showers when it’s dry in Santa Barbara..

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  3. Those Santa Ana winds are something. It’s always interesting to hear what’s dangerous in different places. We get limbs down in hurricanes, but the thing that takes big healthy trees down most often here is the combination of soaked ground and a gust.

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    1. Although real Santa Anna Winds do not affect this region, there are similar offshore winds. It works the same, but the winds are not often as strong. Nor are they so hot and dry in the summer, or cool (relative to local weather) in winter. Santa Anna Winds come from over the Mojave Desert.

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  4. I feel lucky that the worst of the damage I got was my tea plant blowing out of it’s pot! It reminds me to pot in ceramic whenever possible- and to put stones around smaller things. At work of course it was a nightmare- we just let the podocarpus sit on the ground. No use putting them up again to get blown down a second time!

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