Roger Sloboda has seen what the searing summer heat does to folks in Borrego Springs. Sometimes it’s not pretty.
“It really gets to people,” says Sloboda, a state parks employee who spoke Tuesday as he stood in line in a town shop. “Nobody thinks right. Everybody is really out of it. It’s like taking a half dozen Darvon.”
These are the dog days in Borrego Springs, the desert hamlet 90 miles northeast of San Diego, its boundaries defined by the vast Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Santa Rosa, Vallecito and Pinyon mountain ranges.
“When you go out of the shade,” said Dawn Zimmerman, owner of the Village Pharmacy and Liquor Store, “that asphalt will hit you like a furnace.”
During the tourist season, which includes the winter and parts of the spring and fall, business is brisk in shops, hotels and eateries. Cool, starry nights and dry, sunny days draw visitors in search of an offbeat place that is a kind of small-time, decidedly downscale version of Palm Springs.
But June brings sweltering weather, whisking away the tourists and shrinking the town’s population by half, to perhaps 3,000 or so.
Borrego Springs, in fact, is consistently the hottest spot in San Diego County--and, occasionally in the country.
On Monday, the temperature soared to 122 degrees, highest in the nation. On Tuesday, the mercury hit 120.
Helping to compensate for the heat, residents say, are the year-round beauty and the pleasant climate during the non-summer months.
“I like it here more than anywhere else,” said Don Bobred, 55, bespectacled owner of the Circle Saloon, the nearly empty watering hole across the street from the hardware store in what passes for downtown.
Of course, there is the ubiquitous consolation voiced by most all desert residents: Yes, it’s hot, but you don’t have the humidity.
“In L.A., it would get to be 95 with 80% humidity--now that was a killer,” said Steve Baumgardner, who says he prefers even the hottest days here to those humid Los Angeles scorchers. Of Tuesday’s oven-like 120 degrees Baumgardner said, “Around here, this is nothing.”
Many long-time residents profess to be unfazed by the high temperatures, which annually draw the attention of television forecasters nationwide, undoubtedly conjuring
up images for many of Borrego as a second Death Valley. “I’ve learned the best way to deal with this weather is to ignore it,” said Polly Holguin, a 17-year-old secretary and lifelong resident.
The relative cooling in late afternoon--the temperature dipped down to an almost-balmy 110 degrees or so by 4 p.m.--is widely welcomed.
“Almost time to go play horseshoes,” said George Bowlby, as he played pool inside the Circle Saloon, beads of sweat on his nose. “You can almost pick ‘em up.”
Regardless of the temperature, the people of Borrego Springs generally work until mid-afternoon. “We just work slower,” noted Bowlby, a 44-year-old electrical contractor.
At the Borrego Springs Fire Department, Battalion Chief Todd Smith says firefighters, although accustomed to extreme conditions, usually only venture outdoors for emergency calls during heat waves.
“We have two things in our favor: The low humidity and breezes,” Smith said as he leaned against a fire engine parked inside the station.
“Still,” he added, “hot is hot.”