Tropical Storm Kay 9th September 2022

Due to storm damage to overhead lines my internet access is currently very limited and it may be a week or more before the Trail Report can be fully updated. In the meantime here are a few key points relating to the storm and fire activity. For general details of trail and water conditions prior to Tropical Storm Kay, see this earlier Report.

(1) The Forest Service has issued a closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire, currently valid until 1st October 2022. Details and a map are available here. Almost all of the San Jacinto Ranger District south and west of Highway 74 is closed. This includes all of the South Fork Wilderness, the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness, Bautista Canyon, and the Thomas Mountain area, including the Ramona Trail.

(2) Springs and creeks, including some minor ones, are currently flowing due to rains from Tropical Storm Kay. This effect will be temporary, but at least for the next week, water is widespread in the high country. Flow rate at Wellman’s Cienega, which had dried up in the first week of September, was 3L/min on 10th September.

(3) The storm brought down trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards on trails. On my hikes since the storm so far I have found four trees down on the PCT but there are doubtless many more. Two are down near Mile 185 across Deer Springs Trail near the top of Marion Mountain Trail, and there are two minor ones near Mile 180.5, roughly 1.5 miles north of Saddle Junction.

[UPDATED 10th September @ 1050: rainfall totals for past 24 hours are 1.75 inches at San Jacinto Peak and 1.62 inches in Idyllwild (at 5550ft). Most impressive was 2.6 inches at Wellman’s Cienega (9300ft). It is a huge relief to get some meaningful precipitation. Springs are flowing again. Flow rate at Wellman’s Cienega was 3L/min this morning. Even small ephemeral springs on Devil’s Slide Trail are trickling.]

We hiked up to San Jacinto Peak this morning, Friday 9th September, to see what Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Kay would bring in terms of weather. We were not disappointed.

On the way up I noted that Middle Spring on Devil’s Slide Trail, and the north springs at Wellman’s Cienega, had all finally dried up. Now with sufficient rain hopefully they will start trickling again.

It was one of the strangest ascents I have made. It was still very warm, over 70°F at the trailhead, so I was heading up in t-shirt and shorts but could see the cloud descending rapidly and the stiff wind was unusually warm. The wind and cloud were very reminiscent of my many winter ascents, but the air temperature was 40-50 degrees too warm. Making things even more unusual in several locations on Devil’s Slide Trail I could see to the west large flames and billowing smoke near the top of Rouse Ridge at its northern end close to Cranston, graphic evidence of the Fairview Fire several miles away.

We finally got into the cloud at about 8500 ft and had a very light rain shortly thereafter (but it was largely horizontal due to the strong easterly wind).

At the first recording of the weather at San Jacinto Peak at 1045 I measured a wind gust of 58.4 mph, surpassing my previous highest observation at that location by nearly 10 mph. The wind was sustained at an impressive 35 mph and bizarrely – given the wind speed – the windchill was a relatively mild 29.8°F.

The winds started to get crazy by about noon, and at my second attempt the maximum wind gust was an astonishing 77.8 mph. This crushed any previous record wind speed recorded at San Jacinto Peak, at least in the modern era. The sustained wind was well over 40 mph.

I recorded a short(ish) video near the Peak available here on YouTube.

Subsequently the winds never quite reached such strong gusts again. The air temperatures never fell below the mid 40s. However most impressive were the sustained wind speeds which remained above 30 mph for at least nine hours, roughly 0900-1800. In contrast winter storms at the peak are much more gusty with the sustained wind speeds rarely exceeding 30 mph, and when they do it is often only for an hour or two.

This very short video was taken when the sustained winds were “only” about 35 mph and the gusts were “only” near 60 mph, at about 1045 today, Friday 9th September.

Most of the day the rainfall was very light, with only 0.25 inch until mid afternoon, but finally it started raining more heavily around 1600. As of 1830 rainfall at San Jacinto Peak today measured 0.9 inch. By about the same time, Idyllwild (at 5550ft) had recorded just over 1.0 inch. There will be a clearer picture of overall rainfall from this unusual event by tomorrow morning.

2 thoughts on “Tropical Storm Kay 9th September 2022

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