Newsletter: Essential California: ‘Extraordinary’ January has weather experts alarmed

Powerful winds whipped through Southern California amid a winter heat wave that’s bringing increased fire danger. Temperatures are expected to be in the 80s this week.
(John Antczak / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Jan. 30, and here’s what’s happening across California:


The January heat

“Unusual” and “extraordinary” are among the words weather experts are using to describe the record heat and dry streak afflicting Southern California, where January is feeling a lot like July. It’s a repeat of the unusually hot, dry and windy weather that helped fuel huge brush fires in December. Since the end of last February, downtown Los Angeles has seen just 2.26 inches of rain — an anemic amount over an 11-month period. Los Angeles has seen just 28% of its average precipitation since October. “We’re about halfway through the rain season, so we’ve only got February and March, and they better be a miracle,” says climatologist Bill Patzert. “If they’re not, we just backflipped into the drought again.” Los Angeles Times


Plus: A small brush fire in Malibu has heightened concerns about homeless encampments in the area. But it’s not clear whether those camps caused the fire. Los Angeles Times

Will you watch?

When Super Bowl LII kicks off Sunday with the New England Patriots facing the Philadelphia Eagles, there will be more on the line than the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the winner. A season of turmoil and changing viewer habits have chipped away at what has long been the most durable TV franchise as ratings for the NFL have declined for two straight years. Los Angeles Times

Name change


The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will have a new official name: the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum. USC president Max Nikias announced the change — the result of a 16-year, $69-million naming-rights deal — at a ceremony Monday related to the $270-million upgrade of the 95-year-old venue. This is the first time the Coliseum’s naming rights have been sold, and not everyone is pleased with the idea. Los Angeles Times


Titus Young’s story: A former football wide receiver, once classified among the most dangerous inmates at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, began writing in a diary in 2017 about his mental health. Are his NFL dreams really shot? Los Angeles Times

Rocky road: Portuguese Bend in Palos Verdes is one of Southern California’s roughest and most picturesque roads. Is a long-term fix on the way? Daily Breeze


Hospital fight: The battle to save a beloved Long Beach hospital, which is facing seismic safety issues. Long Beach Press-Telegram

Lumpia and beyond: Filipino food is having a moment in L.A., and here’s where to eat the best of it. Eater Los Angeles

Some advice: Why L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and others should say no to Amazon. Wall Street Journal



“Secret police”? Inside the wild cheating scandal that rocked the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Sacramento Bee

Financing available: In the Bay Area, building granny flats is a big way of providing more housing. It’s expensive, but start-ups have moved in to help. Mercury News

Out of the fire: Their homes survived the Santa Rosa firestorm. But now, living there is impossible because of contaminated water. Press Democrat

Money woes: Cal State trustees scheduled to meet Tuesday in Long Beach must grapple with looming budget gaps and another proposal to increase tuition at the nation’s largest public university system. Los Angeles Times



The nature of existence: The fascinating legal, medical and spiritual story of Jahi McMath, an Oakland teenager who is redefining this question: What does it mean to die? The New Yorker

On the 9th Circuit: A federal appeals court decided unanimously Monday that minors who enter the U.S. without documentation are not entitled to government-paid lawyers in deportation hearings. Los Angeles Times

Time for a truce? A report shows the real-life consequences of endless bickering between sheriff’s officials and firefighters in Orange County. Orange County Register


Surprised? Gun sales in California declined last year. About 870,000 guns were sold, down by 450,000 from 2016. Modesto Bee

Man versus machine: In the wake of intensifying criticism over the growing number of automated “bot” accounts on social media, a California assemblyman wants the state to require these accounts be easily identified and ultimately linked to a human user. Los Angeles Times


So long, Blake: The Clippers traded forward Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons. Over the summer, he signed a five-year, $171-million contract extension. Los Angeles Times


Tech’s effects: From hoodies at fancy restaurants to cellphone fatigue, San Francisco needs new rules of etiquette. “Respect and consideration have been thrown out the window in the last 20 years,” one expert says. SF Gate

Not good: Tough times for the California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, which is faced with closure after someone broke into the landmark and caused significant damage. Los Angeles Daily News

On trend: After years of steel and white, color is returning to the designer kitchen. Wall Street Journal

About those Grammys: The CBS telecast of the 60th Grammy Awards was watched by 19.8 million viewers, a staggering 27% decline from last year’s show. Los Angeles Times



Los Angeles area: partly cloudy and 83. San Diego: partly cloudy and 79. San Francisco area: mostly sunny and 61. Sacramento: partly cloudy and 64. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Colleen Gray:


“I vividly remember my first experience with micro-climates. I had just moved to San Jose and decided it was time to check out one of the Santa Cruz beaches. It was over 90 degrees in San Jose, so I picked out my best bikini and shorts and drove down to Santa Cruz. It was sunny and hot until I was within one mile of the beach. The beach was foggy and cold, but I decided to tough it out and spend some time exploring. It was a great lesson as to why clothing layers are essential coast side in California.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.