Mother Nature wrung out the skies Monday night and let it pour
Rare July thunderstorms and then rain provided a welcome change
from the seemingly endless leaden skies that have cast their pall
over Laguna. The annual June gloom began in mid-May and was still
with us as we headed into August. This year, the weather has even
trumped tourists as the main complaint of summer.
"I have lived here 20 years and I don't ever remember seeing it
overcast all day," said Woods Cove resident Cathy Wyatt, who moved
here from Virginia. "The weather had kind of turned on us. It's been
like the East Coast. I just wonder if it's a sign of things to come."
The hottest day ever recorded in Laguna was 119 degrees on Sept.
2, 1939, said Karen Turnbull, fourth generation Lagunan and
architectural historian. The humidity was 100%, making it the worst
day ever, Turnbull wrote in her book "Cottages and Castles." Three
days later, a storm wiped out three piers in town, leaving Rockpile
Beach as a memento.
Coastline Pilot weather columnist Dennis McTighe knows all the
Laguna is having a warmer than usual summer this year because of
tropical moisture streaming in from the east and southeast, something
we haven't had much of since July and August of 1998, McTighe said.
The good thing is that the surface ocean temperature is hovering at
about 71 degrees, compared to 66.2 degrees in the past four years.
The bad thing is the humidity.
"I like gray houses; I don't like gray skies," Bill DeLand said.
The humidity was 20% higher than usual this July because of the
tropical moisture in the air -- in the high 70s.
McTighe predicted an electrical storm in his July 25 column, a
weather event Laguna Beach had not experienced until Monday, since
July 26, 1996, seven years almost to the day.
Monday's storm dropped a mere 0.04 inches of rain, said Graham
Wright, who tracks precipitation for the city's Sewer Division. It
was not exactly the equal of the '96 event that McTighe remembers. It
certainly didn't compare to the Aug; 15, 1958, storm that lighted the
skies for three hours and unloaded an inch of rain. Other significant
summer storms occurred Aug. 9, 1965; in June and July of 1972; in
August 1983; and July 16, 1995. One that barely qualifies as a summer
storm hit July 2, 1967.
None of them should even be mentioned in the same paragraph with
the 17-hour marathon on Sept 30 and Oct. 1, 1981.
However, Monday's storm was enough to give Festival of Arts
officials a scare. They acted quickly to protect the art displayed on
The storm hit just before the second act of the Pageant of the
"The audience was certainly surprised, especially since
[announcer] Skip Conover mentions in the first act that we are an
outdoor show [subject to the weather] and actually knocks on wood,"
said Dee Dee Challis Davy, Pageant director for eight years.
"If the rain hadn't started in the intermission, they might have
thought it was part of the show."
The first act includes a snowstorm.
"It's a magical moment," festival marketing director Sharbie
Higuchi said. "The real storm was very much in keeping with the
show's "Seasons" theme."
Show staff covered the orchestra pit with plastic to protect the
instruments. The audience hastily covered themselves with coats and
"When we announced that we would make every attempt to continue
the show, there was a huge cheer," Challis Davy said. "They really
wanted to see the second act."
Art-a-Fair and Sawdust officials reported no damage there.
"We made it through OK," Sawdust publicist Rebecca Meekma said.
Electrical storms are nature's way of dealing with turbulent air.
But for us on the ground, the real benefits are blue skies and at
least a perceived reduction in humidity.
North Laguna resident Gigi Blount said maybe our memories are just
short, but she knows she has always advised friends to come and visit
in July, but not June.
"This year, we have not had the dream July weather that we are
used to," Blount said. "In a nutshell, it's not good."
Tourists are less critical.
"This is great," said Brandon Birich, visiting here with his wife,
Caroline, son Paul, and his son's friend Cullen Hennessy.
The Biriches don't even complain about the humidity.
"Hey, the ocean is right there, so you go swimming a couple of
times and cool off," Brandon Birich said.
The Northern California couple, used to a cooler climate, also did
not react the way locals did when the weather cooled as the storm
They took an evening walk, he in shorts and Reyn Spooner
short-sleeved shirt; she is in pedal pushers, tank top and flip
flops, while their hostess donned a sweatshirt for the stroll on city
"It's never cold here," Caroline Birich said. "It's always mild.
Even when it's hot, it's not too hot.
"As for Monday night's storm, I loved it."