Though we tend to have an even-tempered climate in Southern California, there are instances where extreme weather can impact your trail excursion. The Safe Trails Coalition urges trail users to be cautious and careful before heading out during extreme weather events. When in doubt phone the land manager for the current conditions and be sure it is safe to recreate. Always obey all posted signs and trail/property closure notices.
Here are four weather conditions that have the very real potential of impacting your trail activities locally:
SANTA ANA WIND CONDITIONS. Though we normally see a cool on-shore flow with our wind patterns we sometimes get super heated air from the deserts in an off-shore flow. This scenario causes high winds (called Santa Ana Winds) with low humidity and very dry conditions. These Santa Ana Wind days tend to also be accompanied by high heat. When Santa Ana Winds exist many land managers close their property to keep people out due to the extreme fire danger. Santa Ana Wind conditions mean fire danger is high and it is not safe to be out recreating in our natural areas. During the Freeway Complex Fire of 2008, the Orange County Fire Authority reported that the fire moved 14 acres a minute. That’s the length of 14 football fields every 60 seconds. Trail users can not outrun or outride a wildfire moving that fast. Keep yourself and others safe by not venturing onto the trail during Santa Ana Wind conditions.
DROUGHT. California is facing its third year of a drought. Orange County is not known as an area with many year round streams and/or waterfalls. Trail users should always carry enough water to ensure proper hydration. Some trail enthusiasts can pump/filter their water with the right equipment, but when water is scarce, like during a drought, reliable water sources may be few and far between. Always be prepared and bring plenty of water. And remember that the plants and animals are having a difficult time during this drought too. Stepping off trail during drought conditions may mean that the plants won’t survive and “bounce back” because they’ve been trampled. Please be aware.
EXTREME HEAT. We’ve had many days in the upper 90s and even triple digits (100s) in the summer of 2014. Trail enthusiasts should carry plenty of water to stay hydrated and should consider cancelling or rescheduling trail activities on high heat days. Check the times the trails open as you may be able to do your activity at dawn instead of during the heat of the day, if permitted by the land manager.
INCLEMENT WEATHER. Though it doesn’t seem to happen very often in Southern California stormy weather (rain, sleet, thunderstorms, etc.) can be a dangerous situation for trail users and the land itself. Storms that drop large amounts of water have the potential to cause landslides and rock falls with or without warning. Trails have been known to slide away during rain storms due to unstable slopes. Many land managers actually close trails during inclement weather. Some land managers require the trails have sufficient time to dry out (24 hours for every quarter-inch of rain that fell). Additionally, there are many areas in the County with clay-like soils. These soils make trails slippery and dangerous. Please heed all warnings and posted signed before heading out on the trail during inclement weather.