Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I've been slinging my opinions and sharing my experiences relating to weather and ski slope grooming for a couple of weeks now. Looking back at my "body of work" I'm thinking: Whiner!
I've dissed the local NWS forecast in nearly half of my columns to date. I'm not sure I've been as fair to them as I should have been...I haven't been following along at their website, like I do when I'm up the hill working on my Mountain or getting ready for the season. I've only overheard most of the forecasts that turned out to be off the mark. After spending a long, overheated evening considering my mea culpa, reality slapped me in the face, reminding me of a critical component of my weather geek story, that I've totally overlooked. Let me explain.
Up until my Dad's health started to fail in 2007, I enjoyed an unbroken string of October fishing trips to Southern Baja spanning over two decades. Part of the run-up to these trips was watching the weather for Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm and Hurricane activity that could impact our trips, and more importantly, the fishing.
Way back in 1990, SturgeUrge, TruckeeDave, and our Band Of Merry Men, took our first trip to Cabo. It was a "Package Deal" found in the back pages of a fishing newspaper...I can't remember who was CharterMaster for that trip, but we had such a great time, that this became our 1st Annual Baja Trip.
We always go South the week of Columbus Day. This week is the last week of the "Off Season" before the MegaDollar Marlin Tournaments begin in earnest, and rates for Hotels, Charter Boats, Tacos, and Cervesa rise into "Too Rich for My Blood" territory. The "High Season" coincides with the first cooling of the scorching Tropical heat, when the temperature of the Pacific and the Cortez are still in the high-80's, but the air stays out of the 100's reliably. The fishing's Hot, the weather not so much. We stuck with the Package Deal for a few years, before we started doing our own planning and booking.
Early on, during our 1994 trip, we saw the power of tropical weather first hand. We left the Cabo Marina at first light, in small skiffs called Pangas for another day of fishing the Pacific Side of the Baja Peninsula. There is some swell in the Pacific, but nothing like we usually encounter out of the Golden Gate, Party Boat fishing for Salmon. By the time our charters were over for the day, the swell had grown huge! The long-period swells were big enough that the huge Battlewagon Yachts with Multi-Story Tuna Towers were disappearing into the troughs between the swells- towers and all! Cal the Kitchen Guy got sea-sick and never made another Baja trip with us. (Cal still goes to Cabo with his family, but never again strayed from the solid footing of the Golf Course!)
The swell was generated by Hurricane Rosa. Rosa missed Cabo by hundreds of miles, though the forecasts we saw after we knew Rosa was coming said she would make landfall in Cabo within 24 hours! We didn't keep up with Rosa however, as all news and weather channels mysteriously vanished from the Hotel's TV Line-Up! Stories of "Hurricanes Endured in Cabo", were topic Numero Uno at the Swim-Up Bars. Rosa turned out to be a big deal for mainland Mexico, and later for Texas. Rosa made landfall in Los Mochis, sinking most of the Shrimp Fleet and killing a half-dozen people. When Rosa called on Texas (as a Tropical Storm) she produced 48 inches of rain in 24 hours! The heavy flooding featured floating propane tanks and freshly interred caskets, freed by Rosa's torrents.
Tropical Storm Ivo
In 2001, SturgeUrge and I went South early...our newest Baja Buddy, KirkVallus couldn't get away, but could we please use his Time Share Condo? It was just the two of us, everybody else was tied up that year. When we got off the plane at the Cabo Airport, we knew we were a month early...it was over 100F and over 90% humidity! We knew we could "suffer thru it" we were only in Cabo for five days. The plan went like this: Fly down, Fish, Fish, Fish, Fly home.
Our first day Panga fishing was September 11th, 2001 We caught some Yellowfin Tuna, and another panga from the same beach got into some Wahoo.
Eric, The Expatriate American who runs the fleet we fish with, greeted us back onto the beach that afternoon saying, "Your first day of fishing was the first day of World War Three!" We were dumb-struck, but enjoyed fresh caught sashimi back at the Condo and watched the CNN coverage of the attacks until bed-time.
The Timeshare Condo Complex was fully booked with mostly Small Business owners on their first vacation since starting their businesses, or since the birth of their latest children. The Swim-Up Bar conversation had an air of desperation to it...all air travel in the States was grounded until further notice, many were feeling trapped or helpless, and in a Foreign Country, during their first National Emergency. Urge and I had another round, looking forward to tomorrow's Wahoo Quest.
We got up the next morning ready to hook into some Wahoo. As we stepped from the air conditioned Condo into the Southern Baja morning, we could feel the weight of the tropical air on our shoulders. I'd never felt anything like it. It was like a sauna after the water hits the hot rocks on the stove.
Out in the dark at the Panga Beach, Eric was looking anxiously out at the Cortez, the heat and humidity were oppressive, and every one of Eric's charters for the day had canceled, save for SturgeUrge and Me, and the two guys who nailed the Wahoo the day before. Eric said: A hurricane "popped up" overnight, and it could be here this afternoon!
That explained the heavy air! The other guys didn't show up on time, Eric was thinking out loud..."If we launch with the storm on the way, we might not be able to get back onto the beach when the big swell and storm surge comes in" Urge and I decided that we didn't want to be the only panga at sea with a storm bearing down on us. Eric had to get his kids to school, so we called it a day just as the Wahoo Dudes showed up. One of them...the guy with the "Never-Fail" internal alarm clock...had overslept...A few days later, Eric told us that those guys had rented a Van, left all their Wahoo and Tuna fillets in Eric's freezers, and drove up the peninsula to San Diego...Eric said they paid over $1500 for the van...
Back at the Condos, we found no weather on TV, just wall-to-wall 9/11 coverage. That afternoon the hurricane flags were posted on the beach, a steady 30 knot wind began to blow out of the South, and the big swells arrived. You could see the surf from the pool, you could feel the surf crashing on the beach reverberating through the bottom of the pool! Most of the folks at the condos made "other arrangements" to get back across the Border, 1000 miles to the North. Except for the sound of the wind and waves, it was eerily quiet. No jets were taking off or landing, none were flying overhead. That evening a chartered luxury bus loaded up outside the front desk, and took off for the Border...the folks on board were singing Kumbaya as the motorcoach pulled away...you just can't make this stuff up!
As it turns out, no hurricane had "popped up" that night, Tropical Storm Ivo was there all along. After a steady 12 hour blow, the wind turned 90 degrees to the West, and began to abate. The swimming pool's water temperature dropped almost 20F during the blow. Our trip ended up being a nine day trip. We only got one more day of fishing in, but we did drive out to the Coral Reef on the East Cape, where we got our first jellyfish stings, and dined at a beachfront palapa restaurant, where we caught Montezuma's Revenge from the Salsa Fresca.
Once we were back in the States, another Hurricane did make landfall in Southern Baja.. She was named Juliette, and she was a Category Four Hurricane. She stalled off the Coast and pummeled Cabo before working up the spine of the peninsula, washing out roads and bridges, and really tearing the place up. That's Juliette's picture at the top of the page.
From the comfort of the living room, I followed Juliette on the BajaNomads Forums. Bajabus, a Satellite Internet Installer was posting from his place a little south of Todos Santos, during the whole time Juliette was gaining strength offshore, and as she blasted ashore. That was some storm! Juliette wreaked havoc for the next few days before impacting SoCal with heavy rain.
I developed a taste for Internet Storm Chasing during Juliette, and Mother Nature provided plenty to follow after that season, too.
This Monday morning, I got an email from BajaBabe tipping me to Hurricane Jimena, the storm that's forecast to hit Baja Tuesday. I replied, "I've been onto Jimena since Saturday"
Foregoing my October Baja trips these last three years, has allowed me to shirk off the first few months of ramp-up weather activity that sets the stage for my winter regimen.