The party's over.
Like a convict whose sentence got lost in the clerical shuffle, we were braced for the bad and got the good a stretch of clear skies smack in the heart of monsoon season. But Mother Nature has stumbled onto our paperwork. It's time to serve the sentence. It's time to get socked in.
Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Literary historians are unsure if Mark Twain actually cooked up this tidbit, but it does smack of his patented crackerbarrel irony. Whatever the source, it's true: when it comes to weather, we mortals are adept at opposing the effect and inept at influencing the cause. We predict the weather with aplomb and combat its cruel consequences with heated car seats. The weather, for its part, just shrugs and keeps on coming.
Twain pulled up stakes in Missouri in the early 1860s, intent on staking a claim to the Nevada Territory's riches, expecting to find gold and silver just lying around waiting to be scooped up. Gold and silver, it turned out, were in meager supply. What Twain found in abundance was fog.
During his stint in the Bay Area, Twain must have heard plenty of whining about the fog. He was an eloquent whiner himself. The coldest winter I ever saw, he wrote, was the summer I spent in San Francisco. It's a fair bet he was talking about more than the mercury level. He was talking about moisture.
Here in East County, after summer's monotonously manicured skies, winter clouds are a welcome sight: low strands lapping Mt. Diablo's peaks like surf against a volcanic island; angel wings stretched in vigilance from horizon to horizon; convoys of flat-bottomed cumulus sailing into battle. Clouds are good. But when clouds stoop to our level they can be more than inconvenient; they can be deadly.
For a year I commuted to Pleasanton via Vasco Road, returning to Brentwood between 10 p.m. and midnight. Advection fog in the Vasco hills can get dense. But that didn't stop two Grand Prix wannabes one winter night from pulling serious G's on Vasco's curvaceous track. The call was so close I wondered if I'd absentmindedly signed some sort of murder/suicide pact with those guys.
And let's not forget the Highway 4 Demolition Derby between Discovery Bay and Stockton, aided and abetted by tule fog harder to see through than lead lingerie on Lois Lane. It's unhealthy enough to wander off most roads, even at low speeds. On that scary stretch, off road means down under. Ever driven along Highway 4 in the clear light of day and spotted a car embedded nose-down in some slough reserved for wakeboarders? Ever thought at that moment, Can any but the most desperate mission be worth this risk? Save that thought.
Tule fog gets its name from the tule reed, or cattail, that populates the marshes where the fog loves to hang out. You can expect it to form on a clear night when the earth is moist say, after a winter rain and the wind is calm. The sun goes down, the ground loses heat, the moist air in contact with the ground is cooled to the point where dew is formed (dewpoint temperature) and voil