It’s a cold California oasis on the hottest weekend of the year. Beware of “fog burns”

There’s a saying about the inhabitants of this foggy wooden town: they don’t tan. They rust.

That’s because it’s usually so foggy, so salty and so gray here along the northern California coast, Don Hofacker said. But sometimeshe pointed out, it “gets pretty hot.”

“It’s extremely hot here,” Hofacker said. “It sometimes goes up to 82.”

Don Hofacker, a 69-year-old docent at the Samoa Peninsula Maritime Museum in Eureka, says it’s usually hazy, salty and gray, but sometimes it goes up to 82 degrees.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Hofacker, 69, is a professor at the Samoa Peninsula Maritime Museum, the narrow stretch of sand in Humboldt Bay where he lives. As he reflected on his hometown, the afternoon temperature was 56 degrees.

It was 24 hours after Burbank and Woodland Hills broke daily heat records last week, peaking at 112 degrees.

Speaking of low temperatures in sunny Southern California, Hofacker joked that he could think of another place with that kind of heat: hell.

Most of California cooks under a so-called high-pressure heating dome. Fires raged in Los Angeles, San Diego and Siskiyou counties. And officials are pleading with sweaty Californians to use less power from the overloaded power grid to avoid blackouts.

    wet windshield with palm tree in the background.

Mornings in Eureka bring damp windshields as the rest of the state swelters. Warm air rising inland draws in cool sea air, bringing drizzles, fog and much-appreciated cooler temperatures.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

But September has arrived with a chill here on the Samoa Peninsula – one of the coldest places in California in these last days of summer.

“We have our natural air conditioning here. If you can handle a bit of fog and drizzle in the morning and overcast skies, that’s not bad,” said Doug Boushey, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Eureka.

The Pacific Ocean has a moderating effect that Boushey calls a “cool, wet pump.”

When it’s warm inland, this warmer, thinner air rises in the atmosphere and cold sea air is drawn in, like a vacuum, to fill the void, Boushey said. Warmer air at higher altitudes acts “like a lid”, trapping heavier, cooler air, which cannot easily flow over the mountains.

Humboldt County Fog

In Humboldt County, fog blanketing low-lying coastal towns on August 31, 2022, can be seen from mountains near the unincorporated community of Kneeland, where it was sunny and warmer.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

In Eureka, a mile east of Peninsula Bay, the hottest temperature on record is 87 degrees, Boushey said. Mercury reached this figure in 1993, 2017 and 2020.

It’s a “wimp’s record” for the heat, he acknowledged.

With the heat dome firmly in place elsewhere, average highs around Eureka over the next week are in the mid-60s, Boushey said.

It’s even cooler than the famous freezing summer in a city five hours south: San Francisco. A maximum of about 79 is planned there over Labor Day weekend.

Although the overwhelming majority of American cities have had shorter, warmer winters over the past 50 years due to climate change, Eureka is one of the very few to buck the trend, with its winters getting slightly colder, according to Climate Central, a nonprofit research organization. band.

Since 1970, the average winter temperature in Eureka has dropped by 1.3 degrees.

Longtime residents and real estate agents speak of “climate refugees” — people who move to small, dank towns beyond the Redwood Curtain to escape the fire, smoke and heat — who are helping to make drive up housing costs in an already tight market.

But despite all the angst about population growth, global warming and rising sea levels, most people here are happy to show off their little piece of paradise, which Boushey called “the one of the coolest places in the state, in more ways than one.” ”

So what was life on the Samoa Peninsula like this week, when the rest of the state was sizzling?

For the roughly 1,100 residents of the narrow spit, which is about 10 miles long and 1 mile wide, it was pretty chilly.

Diners eat inside a restaurant.

Diners sit down to a set menu meal at the Samoa Cookhouse. Built in 1893, it is the last lumber camp style kitchen in the western United States.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

With dark gray skies above his head, Hofacker – a burly, bearded man who played Santa Claus in the Salty Santa Boat Parade – closed the Humboldt Maritime Museum, crossed the parking lot and ate a hearty dinner of meatloaf and piping hot minestrone soup. at the Samoa Cookhouse.

Cladding in faded red shingles, the Samoa Cookhouse, which opened in 1893, is the last lumber camp-style kitchen in the western United States. It has long tables, with red and white checkered tablecloths, and its own lumberjack museum. , with giant saws – and soup ladles worthy of Paul Bunyan himself – hanging on the walls.

Many local customers wore short sleeves as temperatures outside soared into the mid-50s.

“You look at someone from the south coming here, they’ll be wearing long-sleeved shirts and down jackets,” he said. “We are comfortable.”

Just across Cookhouse Road is a trail for the Dunes and Wetlands of Samoa, which Jennifer Savage – a resident of the peninsula for 20 years who leads the non-profit Surfrider Foundation’s nationwide effort to reduce plastic in marine environments – was excited to show.

Savage raised three children here. They are beach lovers who can name the native plants on the dunes and who balked the first time they felt “real heat” in the Central Valley years ago.

Woman on the porch with a giant yellow flower

Jennifer Savage is a 20-year resident of the Samoa Peninsula in Eureka. She leads the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation’s nationwide effort to reduce plastic in marine environments.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

In a puffy vest and long sleeves, Savage hiked the sandy hiking trail with Carol Vander Meer and Carla Avila-Martinez, board members of the nonprofit Friends of the Dunes, which became the owner. acting from the 357-acre conservation area two years ago.

The path plunged into a forest of conifers, where the women picked and ate wild blueberries. Vander Meer noted that coastal pines grow here in twisted shapes due to the cold wind from the water.

Pale green lace lichen – pronounced “liken” – hung from the branches, thriving in the humid climate. Vander Meer said people confuse the organism made up of fungi and algae with moss, but there is a children’s story to describe what it is:

Once upon a time, she says, there was a mushroom named Francine Fungus. She was an excellent house builder, but a poor cook. She met Albert Algae, who couldn’t build a worthwhile house, but could make delicious food just by using the sun’s energy – photosynthesis.

Thus, Francine Fungus and Albert Algae took a lichen to one another.

The peninsula’s dunes and beaches attracted a lot of people during the first year of the pandemic, when so many indoor places were closed. There was a lot of illegal camping, trash dumping and off-road driving in environmentally sensitive areas.

“There were lots of RVs and vans everywhere,” Savage said.

The women said they knew the area would only become more popular, thanks to its cold, clean air.

On the other side of a steep sand dune, the ocean roared. The wind whipped.

The Samoa Peninsula in Eureka

The Samoa Peninsula in Eureka chilled in drizzle and fog as the rest of the state sweltered. Warm air rising inland draws in cold sea air, providing natural air conditioning.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Boushey of the National Weather Service said when people spend time outdoors here, they often don’t realize they’ve got a sunburn.

It’s a phenomenon dubbed misting, he says. The sun’s ultraviolet rays still penetrate fog and clouds, but “you don’t realize you’re burned because the air is so cool.”

“You’re comfortable, but the ultraviolet cooks you and all of a sudden you’re red as a lobster,” he said.

It doesn’t look like the sun is out much this week along the Redwood Coast, he said.

“But I’ll take any day fog burns over 103 or 105 degrees in LA”

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