At this writing, Los Angeles is a mere one week away from establishing
a new record dry season, eclipsing the 1960-61 total of 4.85 inches. It’s
at 4.43 inches and chances of getting .43 inches by July 1 are next to
It’s even worse in Arizona and Colorado, where things are absolutely
out of control.
It’s the worst drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl Decade, only on the
other side of the Rockies.
Ranchers across the West have been selling off herds of cattle for
less than they paid because there’s absolutely no grass for them to graze
since there was no snow and no rain this winter or spring.
It’s getting hotter by the day, with 113 degrees in Phoenix and 110
degrees in Tucson and even 90 degrees at 7,000-foot elevation Flagstaff,
According to artist Dion Wright, Flagstaff has had 3 inches of
precipitation during the 2001-02 season, breaking the old record by two
inches set in 1958-59, which was also a super dry year in L.A., with 5.58
Normally, Flagstaff gets a healthy 18.5 inches a season. The solstice
has come and gone, now the tilt starts creeping back to the north.
On the June 24, the sun set at its latest time, 8:06 p.m. here in
Laguna and 8:09 p.m. in L.A.
June has actually been pretty kind to us, with only a handful of
gloomy days. April and May were gloomier than June.
And with this years’ halfway point fast approaching, it’s been the
worst surf for the first six months of a year ever. More than half of the
182 days, from Jan. 1 to June 30, have been 2 foot or smaller and only
five days have seen overhead waves here in Laguna -- four of them in
And now it has been five summers since we’ve had a major south swell,
since Hurricane Linda in September 1997.
The biggest south swells I’ve recorded since 1958 have been:
September 1963 -- Hurricane Kathleen
September 1966 -- Hurricane Janine (Pipeline comes to Newport swell)
Aug. 20, 1968 -- A huge Antarctic swell (The Wedge hits 22 feet)
Then Hurricanes Gwen, Hyacinth, Inez, Joanne, Katrina, Laurel and
Madeline in 1972 (the best summer ever)
The New Zealand/Baja combo in September 1975
Hurricane Claudia in July 1976
Hurricane Estelle in August 1984 (the Brooks Street contest had 12- to
The Tahiti swell of July 24, 1996 was the biggest South I’ve ever seen
And, of course, Hurricane Linda on Sept. 25, 1997.
But the biggest ever recorded, way before my time, was September 1939.
There was 20- to 25-foot hurricane surf from the hurricane that came
ashore near San Pedro. The water temperature was 80 degrees in Laguna,
which was why that storm made it all the way up here.
That kind of thing happens about once a century.
Our best summers have been ’58, ’63, ’66, ’72, ’83 and ’97.
Our worst: ’64, ’67, ’73, ’88, ’91, ’95, ’99 and ’01.
Best ever: ’72
Warmest water summer was ’97, with an average of 73.5 degrees.
And our coldest was ’99, with an average of 64.6 degrees; normal is
Today it’s 70 degrees and we’re hoping that holds.
* DENNIS MCTIGHE is a Laguna Beach resident.