Although the origin and cause of the Santa Ana winds are not in dispute, the origin of the name is. According to the most common and accepted explanation, the winds derive their name from the Santa Ana Canyon of Orange County, south of Los Angeles and near the city of Santa Ana. In short, they are caused by high pressure over the Mohave Desert and the Great Basin, along with overall low pressure in Southern California. Hot, dry, high-pressure air seeks to go to low-pressure areas.
Normally, this would be a fairly quiet exchange, but because of all the mountains that surround Southern California, air movements are channeled through the three main mountain passes: Soledad, Cajón and San Gorgonio. This channeling action creates huge wind currents that result in those fierce and dry gusts that we know very well in our area. For answers to more burning questions, visit the Ask Chris archive. Nobody knows for sure why the winds take the nickname “Santa Ana”.
Some stories say that the name comes from Satanas, an archaic word in Spanish for “devil” that was given to the winds due to its diabolical weather conditions. These winds are caused by high pressure over the Great Basin with low pressure off the coast. Winds flow from high pressure to low, and the stronger the gradient (or the pressure difference between the two), the stronger those winds can be. As the winds approach sea level, they accelerate, dry out and warm the air.
Or the Santa Ana wind that was so hot it froze a Thanksgiving turkey sitting on the kitchen counter in the air. The veterans, he reports (and I knew many of them) “have always known that the wind got its name because it swept through the mouth of the Santa Ana Canyon. All of this was a huge annoyance for the residents of Santa Ana (and especially its chamber of commerce), as some people spoke as if the winds were only hitting their town. The poor Chamber of Commerce; a couple of years later, and again six decades later, the meteorological office affirmed and reaffirmed that “Santa Ana was the sanctioned name.
The reporter was probably assigned to the story because in 1933, Santa Anas reached 60 miles per hour, destroyed ships, uncovered buildings and relocated about 14 million tons of dust. And as powerfully as the Chamber of Commerce tried to blame elsewhere, the winds are not double “Santa Anás”, named after the legendary Mexican general, supposedly because of the dust raised by his cavalry, a cavalry that, by the way, never rode anywhere in California. A parishioner named Magdalena Murrillo, born on her family's Las Bolsas ranch just before California became a state in 1850, recalled that during the Santa Ana season, her family never cooked over a fire, but ate their meals cold, out of fear of fugitive embers, and that the winds stirred “a big dust, a tremendous dust storm. That edge of dread that feels the wind rise and knows what could happen next makes Santa Anas as disconcerting as the first tremor of an earthquake.
Although the origins of the name “Santa Ana” may be legendary, the damage caused by these winds is very real. Before, they dive through the canyons north and east of the Santa Ana area, and sweep valleys to the sea. In those days, the people of Santa Ana preferred “Riverside Winds”, since they came from that direction. It's not uncommon for the air associated with Santa Anas to have single-digit humidity values (anything below 10% is considered completely dry).
Since then, some people have continued to use the term “santana” for winds, although historically they are (and have been) the Santa Ana winds. However, the fact that the Santa Ana winds bore the name of their city did not please the members of the Chamber of Commerce of the city of Santa Ana, and they fought for years to have its name changed. It was one of those hot and dry Santa Anas that go down the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itches. .