Joan Didion Essay On Santa Ana Winds California

The legend of the Santa Ana winds has infused both residents and storytellers in Los Angeles for decades.

Perhaps most memorably, author Joan Didion described the haunting nature of the Santa Ana winds in her essay, "Los Angeles Notebook." She wrote, "Some teachers do not attempt to conduct formal classes during a Santa Ana because the children become unmanageable." And, "Surgeons are said to watch the wind, because blood does not clot normally during a foehn [a dry, down-slope wind]."

The folklore continued with Neil Peart's book "Traveling Music." He described what happens when the wind comes out to play, "Modern-day urban myths associate the Santa Anas with rising crime rates, freeway gun battles, wildfires, actors entering rehab, Hollywood couples divorcing, bands breaking up, irritated sinuses, and bad tempers all around."

Perhaps the storytellers embellish here or there, but, taking a look at Los Angeles today, with 100 mile-per-hour winds, closed schools, fallen trees and a dry-heat that lingers in our lungs, maybe the literati are right?

In both honor and terror of what these howling winds are capable of, we present to you the top 10 references to the Santa Ana winds in pop culture.

The New Yorker, September 4, 1989 P. 96

This is fire season in Los Angeles, and it has been a particularly early and bad one. Most years it is September or October before the Santa Ana winds start blowing down through the passes, and the relative humidity drops to figures like 7 or 6 or 3%, and the bougainvillea starts rattling in the driveway, and people start watching the horizon for smoke and tuning in to another of those extreme local possibilities--in this instance, that of imminent devastation... Some 34,000 acres of L.A. County burned in one week in 1978. More than 80,000 acres had burned in 1968. Close to 130,000 acres had burned in 1970. 74,000 had burned in 1975, 60-some thousand in 1979... Since 1919, when the county began keeping records of its fires, some areas have burned eight times. Writer visits the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which is responsible not only for coordinating firefighting and reseeding operations throughout the country but for sending, under the California Master Mutual Aid agreement, both equipment and strike teams to fires around the state. The logistics of these big fires are essentially military... Anyone who has ever spent fire season in L.A. knows some of its special language... A week, or so later, 3700 acres burned in the hills west of the Antelope Valley. The flames reached 60 feet. The wind was gusting at 40 mph. There were 250 firefighters on the ground, and they evacuated 1500 residents... This will be only the second fire season in 25 years during which writer did not have a house somewhere in L.A. County, and the second during which writer did not keep the snapshots in a box near the door, ready to go when the fire comes.

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