Monday, April 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Pea soup fog makes San Joaquin Valley notorious

Tule Fog

In this file photo from Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2001, smoke rises from vehicles that were involved in a multi-car accident that happened in foggy conditions on southbound Highway 99 in Elk Grove, Calif., killing three people that caused the closure of Highway 99 in both directions for several hours. San Joaquin Valley's notorious tule fog requires drastic measures to keep highways safe. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

FRESNO — Some fog creeps in poetically on little cat feet through the Golden Gate. And then there is the prosaic fog of California’s San Joaquin Valley that erupts from the soil in certain wintry conditions to put a stranglehold on the region.

This dense tule fog materializes in a patchwork an average of 35 days each winter on mornings when cold mountain air sinks to the valley’s lowest areas after a rain. On these gray days, visibility is less than 1,300 feet – and sometimes zero, schools start late, workers who can telecommute, commerce grinds to halt, and those who have to go somewhere hug the white line marking the outside edge of the road.

“I could argue it’s the most dangerous kind of fog,” said Jim Andersen of the National Weather Service on Foggy Bottom Road in Hanford, southwest of Fresno. “I’d be hard pressed to figure out another location that gets as bad as this. This is the most dangerous place when it’s fog season.”

Four people died in late November during the first big fog of the season: in one accident, a 90-year-old man was broadsided near Kingsburg when he thought an intersection was clear; in the other incident, a car with three people was struck head-on near Chowchilla by a big-rig when the driver swerved to avoid a minor accident.

Other parts of California get fog, and areas around the Sacramento Delta even get the dense, low tule fog named for the tule reeds along the valley waterways where early settlers first noticed it forms. But experts say that the most dangerous in the state occurs along a 12-mile stretch of Highway 99 south of Fresno. It’s often so foggy that tail lights are impossible to see until it’s too late to react.

In 2002, a crash there on a zero visibility morning sandwiched 81 cars and six tractor-trailer trucks in less than two minutes, killing two. After a 2007 morning pileup involving 108 cars and big rigs killed two, injured 100 more and closed the major north-south transportation artery for half of the day, Caltrans and the Highway Patrol began planning for a warning system.

Now as safety experts brace for December and January, the foggiest months of the year, they knock on their laminate desks when they say that since 2010 the intricate system of six weather stations, 12 cameras, 39 electronic message signs and 41 microwave sensors installed along the dangerous corridor has worked to help avert the deadly pileups.

“The intent was never to stop 100 percent of the accidents. The hope was that 100-car pileups would go to 40 and 40 to 20 and so on. The point was to reduce the numbers,” said Sergio Venegas, the engineer in charge of what he calls the state’s most sophisticated fog monitoring system.

Twenty-two sensors connected to a command center can determine the density of the fog, and others in the roadway tell the speed in each lane of traffic on the highway that sees 100,000 vehicles a day. If traffic suddenly slows, warning signs along the highway instantly alert drivers to slow for foggy conditions ahead, the only system this advanced in the state. Engineers can watch what’s happening in real time on dozens of monitors.

At least that’s what they do when they’re operational. This year state officials were delayed two weeks in firing up the system for the current fog season because copper wire thieves had stolen key parts. On Wednesday a couple of transmitters were not operating, and Venegas fears thieves are responsible for that, too.

Fog and the valley are so intertwined that billboards for roadside restaurants advertise pea soup to drivers and tout that it’s as thick as the fog, which also might serve as another warning for drivers across the foggy valley.

Highway 99 from Merced south to Delano is built along one of the lowest spots in the valley, which is why this significant highway is so notorious for tule fog when conditions are right, says Anderson the meteorologist. The soils that make the region so productive for farming retain moisture after rains. When a high pressure system develops in the valley ringed by towering mountains, it works like a lid to trap cooler air at the ground at night. The resulting temperature inversion allows the fog to form from the soil’s moisture and often catches drivers by surprise.

In 1985, there was a record 16 consecutive days of dense tule fog in Fresno.

“You’re going along with good visibility and get lulled into a false sense of security then suddenly you hit a pocket and, wham, the transition is dangerous,” Anderson said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Jelly Belly artist finds her work sweet

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Hundreds turn out for Kroc Easter Egg hunt

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1

Rodriguez musicians win big in Reno

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1

 
 
Heroes for Hire event goes haywire

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

Best of the best compete at dog show

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Tour past, present, future in Mountain View

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

9th Annual Peace Summit on calendar

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
4-H Paper Clover Campaign starts

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Center offers baby mammal care class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield police arrest 6 in alcohol sting

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3

Event allows for safe medication disposal

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Silent movie night set in Rio Vista

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Local government meetings

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Il Fiorello to host mushroom class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Club plans home garden tour in Fairfield

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Suisun City to host 3rd annual MS walk

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Church offers document shredding

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Kids Fishing Derby to take place Saturday

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Suisun City police log: April 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Fairfield police log: April 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Fairfield police log: April 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: April 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
North Bay Pediatrics marks anniversary

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A11

Networking event at Solano College

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A11

 
Street-sweeping dealership comes to Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A11, 1 Comment | Gallery

Firm facilitates building lease in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A11

 
Weather for Monday, April 21, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

.

US / World

Bid, Dick, bid: ‘Dick and Jane’ artworks for sale

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Bee colonies damaged after almond pollination

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Sleeping girl killed after car drives into home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Nurse in critical condition after stabbing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Recreation areas reopening after Yosemite fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Country music singer Kevin Sharp dies at age 43

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Delay in ferry evacuation puzzles maritime experts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Transcript of SKorea ship sinking: ‘We can’t move’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Transcript reveals confusion over ferry evacuation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Opinion

Why Hillary? The public awaits her answer

By Ann McFeatters | From Page: A8

 
Knowledge, religion and the hard work of faith

By Cynthia M. Allen | From Page: A8

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Legislature critic is selective

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Editorial Cartoon for April 21, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Local voices, important choices

By Rod Keck | From Page: A8

.

Living

Community Calendar: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes for April 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
My friend’s wife drinks too much, verbally abuses her husband

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

Horoscopes for April 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

‘Capt. America’ tops box office for third week

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
TVGrid April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

TVGrid April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Sharks take 2-0 series lead with 7-2 win vs. Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Posey, Lincecum lead Giants to 4-3 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Chavez gets 1st win, A’s complete sweep of Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Young Clippers try to mature against Warriors

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
NBA: Refs missed foul call in Warriors-Clippers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Westwood wins Malaysian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

After bombs, Boston Marathon under tight security

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep baseball: Pair of 10-run innings powers Vikings to win

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Red Sox remember Boston Marathon victims

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prizefighter Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Kuchar rallies from 4 back to win RBC Heritage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Jimenez closes with 67 to win Greater Gwinnett

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Aldridge leads Portland over Houston 122-120 in OT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Nene dominates, Wizards rally past Bulls, 102-93

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
James, Wade lead Heat past Bobcats 99-88 in Game 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Duncan scores 27 points, Spurs beat Mavs 90-85

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Business

 
.

Obituaries

Anne Irene Elizabeth Fulgoni

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
.

Comics

Beetle Bailey April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Wizard Of Id April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Word Sleuth April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sudoku April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Bridge April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Crossword April 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Garfield April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Pickles April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard Of Id April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Cryptoquote April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge April 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7