gale force days

1_RainsWavesHigh Point On South Beach

I wake on a gray Sunday in February with the glow of Greg’s cellphone illuminating his smiling face beside me. In true geekdom he inquires, “There are hurricane winds on South Beach today, 60 mph. Do you wanna go and check it out?” I laugh and take his phone and study the fascinating weather app he’s recently downloaded. The spinning weather cups above a table of wind speeds at various hours of the day note that wind speeds die down a bit later in the day. I negotiate, “How about we drive up around 4pm when the winds are 40 mph?” He replies, “Gale force,… that would be good too.” Spoken like the good student studying for his Skipper’s license. Gale force it is. We arrive a little too late to see the slow color of clouds at sunset, catching the last blast of color on the horizon. The waves are wild, crashing and foaming in multiple directions at once. As I look down at my viewfinder one swiftly streams up and over my knee-high water boots soundly soaking my wool socks. I slosh up to higher ground and get a wonderful series of waves colliding at my feet from both directions. I photograph the waves while he photographs me getting soaked. It has been an amazing California winter with 13 major storms so far. Typically we get an average of 5 “atmospheric river” storms. Hydrologist Michael Dettinger and UC Berkeley professor Lynn Ingram explain that, “atmospheric rivers are long streams of water vapor that form at about one mile up in the atmosphere. They are only 250 miles across but extend for thousands of miles—sometimes across an entire ocean basin such as the Pacific. These conveyor belts of vapor carry as much water as 10 to 15 Mississippi Rivers from the tropics and across the middle latitudes.” Standing on a small curved ridge above roiling waves I am in awe of the majesty and magnitude of water on and around this planet. After reading about 10-times the Mississippi River in moisture I am astounded and waiting for more.

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