This summer is dragging on forever. Summer came in May this year instead of June... and it came in hard. In the Sacramento Valley, this was one of the hottest Mays on record. Summer never really let up either. We didn't get all that many days over 105 degrees. But it got up to 95, every day, for 5 months. Two days ago, Fall tried to blast into town. Tactically, it was a mistake. Northern California fall uusually announces itself in mid October with a windestorm to swirl bright-colored leaves. Not this year, however. Defying the unending summer, a bubble of cold air formed in the jet stream, and gyrating wildly, dropped due south from the Aleutian Sea. In the winter, it would have been a respectable storm. It would have flowed on through, giving gentle rains to the valley and a foot of soft snow in the Sierra. In mid October, it would have brought the normal windstorm. In midsummer, the swirl would have died far to the north.

Somehow, defying all odds, this little packet of cold air wedged itself off the coast of San Francisco. It hesitated there, as if it somehow knew that it could not hold its ground on the sunbaked land. Then as night fell, under cover of darkness, it made its move.

The darkness did not persist that night. Severe thunderstorms are rare in California, but when they do roll in, the lightning flashing through the hazy coast air looks nothing like any storm anywhere else. The soft haze pushed inland by the storm did little to deny the raw energy in the bolts pounding the ground. Since the fall air had snuck underneath the summer air and lifted it 9,000 feet above the ground, the lightning had a mile and a half of clear air in which to streak around. Thousands of people lost power that night as lightning pounded most major electrical lines coming over the coastal hills. And people stood in awe outside their houses, stunned by the way the sky could turn so violent and angry. The storm rolled in and sat over the Central Valley all night. The summer air kept the rain to a scant quarter inch, but the energy in all that heat made for a noisy night.

The little bubble of fall air held out overhead for a day or so. But like a hole dug in wet mud, the hot air pushed aside the shallow fall. Today it was hot again.. hot and stagnant and stale. Summer isn't going to be driven away that easily. All of the life in the valley is holding its breath... hoping that more rain comes soon to relieve the drought, and cold air comes to put the trees to sleep.

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