Hurricane Nora in 1997With the East Coast upside-down with Hurricane Irene, it got me thinking about hurricanes or tropical storms that have hit Southern California. Thankfully it’s a very rare occurrence due to the cold ocean temperatures under 70 degrees out here – hurricanes usually need surface temperatures over 80 degrees to sustain themselves.

Of all the storms that are listed in Wikipedia, I remember two that could have affected Southern California within a span of two weeks.

The first was Hurricane Linda in mid-September 1997. I don’t have any strong memories of it except that it put Southern California on alert for the possibility of landfall. I remember that it was a Category 5 hurricane, but I don’t remember that it was the strongest measured hurricane in the East Pacific.

I was particularly intrigued by it. After all I was set to move into the dorms at UC Santa Barbara two weeks later. Since we aren’t a hurricane-prepared region, I was wondering what would happen if it did hit. Thankfully it continued moving out into the Pacific, and that was all.

Until two weeks later with Hurricane Nora.

I don’t remember much in the lead up to Nora since I was busy getting ready to move over 100 miles north. So I had no idea that we were going to get remnants of the storm.

I had moved into the dorms in Santa Barbara and was trying to get situated. What struck me about Santa Barbara the most was the smell. Because of the oil rigs just off shore, there was the scent of benzene – definitely a chemical smell but not noxious.

The next morning I took care of some administrative shit (getting my ID card, meeting with advisors and trying to find people I knew.) With my friend Jess, we decided to do some exploring in Isla Vista. As we were heading out there it started to rain. It wasn’t a torrential downpour. There weren’t any devastating winds. Just the fact that there was rain was enough to shock my system.

It was a good day though. At Morning Glory Music, I bought the new Björk album Homogenic which I fell in love with. I will always associate that album with that humid benzene-scented first day in Santa Barbara.