There are occasionally practical downsides to being an intellectual. While driving home late tonight after having a wonderful time at a dinner party in rural Clackamas county with two other bachelors, I pondered the name of the wind that I had been driving through for about an hour or so. I suppose it was not enough to be having a white knuckle driving experience and fighting through the occasional gusts. Was the storm that showed beautiful sheet lightning and that featured winds blowing at sustained rates of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts into tropical storm force a chinook wind, or a pineapple express, or what? I suppose it is not enough to drive through a storm but one wants to know what to call it. These things must be properly named as one is driving over downed tree material and making one’s way at the flow of traffic just trying to get home safe.
To be sure, I have driven through a variety of bad winds. Growing up in Florida, I have a few experiences of driving through squall lines as they made their way south in the winter. Once I had a cabin fever experience and drove outside in the aftermath of a hurricane that had left a lot of street flooding and had downed a lot of tree branches because I just could not deal with being in a sweltering house with no power or air conditioning any longer without at least attempting to survey the neighborhood. And once on the way to Sabbath services in Largo I drove through a tropical storm while I was on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, not the ideal place to drive through such winds in a brave little two-door coupe. When I lived in California I became familiar with the Santa Ana winds that would sing while blowing down from the mountains, and tonight was one of those nights where it felt as if there was the sort of wind that deserved to be named. Any time the wind starts singing as it was doing while I ate and chatted outside of Estacada, it deserves to be given a proper name. I just don’t happen to know what it should be called, blowing from the west, with ominous solid cloud masses in the night sky illuminated by sheet lightning.
As it happens, there are a lot of creative names for bad winds, as I found out as I was attempting to look up wind names. Although there is a casino named Chinook Winds in Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast, technically speaking a Chinook wind is one that blows from the Cascades down into the plains, heating up the temperature. There is indeed an entire family of katabatic winds that are given creative local names that descend with the flow of gravity from high elevations to lower ones that are cold and often destructive. The Santa Ana winds are one of these, along with the Bohemian wind from the Ore mountains and the Sudetenland, the bora in the Adriatic, the oroshi in Japan, and the piteraq winds (piteraq means “that which attacks you,” which is pretty descriptive) of Greenland. Thanks wikipedia! Suffice it to say that although the wind I was dealing with was not such a wind, it was definitely not a fun experience. I wouldn’t necessarily say that my car was being attacked, but it did not make for an enjoyable driving experience, that’s for sure.
As someone who has spent my life in various areas where different wind patterns have been found, I have seen many ways in which winds are important. Some winds are dry winds that bring the threat of rampaging wildfires. Other winds bring the threat of storm surge or tornadoes. Some winds bring soaking rains or blasts of snow, and still others come connected with warm or cold fronts. Some winds are seasonal and bring with them monsoons, while other winds come about because of differences in temperature or elevation or pressure. Some winds are gentle sea breezes that cool you in the heat of a summer, while others bring with them unpleasant or even potentially deadly conditions. Certainly some of the winds I have driven through had the chance to end my life prematurely, while others were a welcome change of pace from the stagnant and fetid air of malarial swamps. Whether one’s experience with winds is good or bad, it is worthwhile to know what to call them, so that one can give the proper shape to one’s experiences. And now, having returned home safe in my bed, it is time to sleep, having sufficiently calmed down after the experience.