Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rare and Welcome

(Our front yard, looking to the northwest, about 6:45 this morning)

To all of you back east who are sick to death of cold and snowy winter weather, you may not wish to read this post. Snow here, only twenty miles north of the Mexican border, is a rare and welcome occurrence, one dreamed of and sometimes even prayed for.

San Diego is known for its beautiful weather which is perhaps why it's one of the most expensive places to live in the US. The joke is that San Diegans consider 75 degrees a heat wave and 65 degrees a cold snap. Then there's also that wonderful poem about the lack of seasonal change in San Diego, penned by the late Bob Dale, a former weatherman in San Diego for nearly fifty years:

Spring comes in summer,
Summer comes in fall.
Autumn comes in winter,
And winter not at all.
The coastal dwellers of San Diego truly experience only two seasons, spring and fall. Summer weather rarely gets above 80 and a cold day is in the mid-50's. Why our gas and electric bills are among the highest in the nation, I'll never understand.

Further inland, in the mesas and valleys, the temperature spread increases so that "frost advisories" occasionally occur in winter and summer highs easily surpass 100 degrees.

But we live in the mountains 50 miles east of downtown San Diego, at nearly 4000 feet above sea level, so our temperature range is even more pronounced. We get more than double the rainfall up here (21 inches verses under 10 inches for the coast), and we usually receive light snowfalls 3-4 times each winter. And by "light" I mean around an inch, maybe two, but often less. To compensate, our summertime highs can rocket to 110 quite easily. But we are talking snow here.

Our town sits at the base of Mount Laguna which tops at just over 6000 feet in elevation. Now, they get much, much more snow up there than we do down here at 4000 feet. My parents have a little cabin on government land up there, about a quarter mile off of Sunrise Highway. Now, up on the mountain they can easily pile up two feet of snow from storms that bring us only rain at the base of the range. As soon as the storms are gone and the roads are plowed, half of San Diego heads up the mountain to "play in the snow." They go up without snow tires (duh! This is San Diego) and without chains (which the grocery stores sell for twice their usual retail price), thinking their four-wheel-drive will keep them out of trouble. NOT. And then they sled quite often on private property, most likely leaving behind their trash for the owners to clean up after the snow melts.

The lodge/general store atop Mount Laguna loves snow because their cabins fill quickly and they do a brisk business in gloves, sleds, and hot cocoa. The businesses in our town don't mind either, especially the mom-and-pop grocery stores who also stock mittens, hats, scarves, and sleds of various types. Plus the Java place and the 50's Diner are overflowing with families wanting to warm up after a couple of hours in the cold, wet, white stuff by buying hot chocolate, coffee, chili, and soup. Snow is good for our little mountain businesses; that's for certain.

The thing about San Diego is that one can be atop Mt. Laguna, sledding on a foot of snow, and only an hour later can be dragging surf boards and wetsuits out of SUV's at the beach. Yes, it's one hour from snow to surf.

And I haven't even started describing the desert activities of water skiing and offroading that go on in the Anza-Borrego Desert on the eastern side of our mountains. Yes, one must travel another hour or so from the west-facing mountains, but the desert, complete with those tall, barrel-bodied Saguaro cacti, is only two hours or so from the Pacific Ocean.

Beach. Mountains. Desert. All within two hours. Although the weather forecasters seem to have life fairly easy in San Diego ("Today will be sunny with a high in the 70's along the coast" 350 days out of the year), they do have to forecast weather for four temperate zones: Coastal, Inland, Mountain, and Desert. So the job isn't quite as easy as it seems.

Most of our snow was gone by the time we left for church as the constantly-falling sprinkles of rain was quickly melting the powdery white stuff away. By the time we returned home by 1:00 PM, going from 62 degrees at church in La Mesa to 39 in our front yard a mere forty minutes later, the snow had completely disappeared except for a few traces where it had slidden down the hoods of our car and van. We may get a little more tonight, but we'll certainly light a cosy fire in the woodburning stove tonight and enjoy buttered popcorn while we play board games and perhaps watch the Grammys. Well, at least the part with U2 playing a song from their new album due out in less than a month....

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