What a week! To say it rained is an understatement. Back to back storms battered California for several days, wreaking havoc up and down the state. Dangerous mudslides, overflowing waterways, downed trees and snarled traffic have been the norm.
Much like the proverbial flood gate, we’ve endured five years of drought and then the rain all flowed at once.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
atmospheric rivers come in many shapes and sizes, those that contain the largest amounts of water vapor and the strongest winds can create extreme rainfall and floods, often by stalling over watersheds vulnerable to flooding. These events can disrupt travel, induce mudslides and cause catastrophic damage to life and property. A well-known example is the “Pineapple Express,” a strong atmospheric river that is capable of bringing moisture from the tropics near Hawaii over to the U.S. West Coast.
Here in San Jose we’ve been incredibly lucky. Other than losing power for several hours after the first storm, we’ve been otherwise okay. Our street didn’t flood, and we didn’t lose any trees (thank goodness).
The only nail-biting experience was my attempt to get to an appointment mid-week “over the hill” in nearby Felton. There are only two ways to get there from here, by highway 17 or highway 9. Both routes travel through winding hills. I checked the traffic reports before heading out (CHP closed Highway 9 but 17 remained open), but it was not to be. Just a few miles in to my trip, the rain started to fall in sheets. There were mudslides the day before, and heavy puddles were already forming. I found a safe place to exit the freeway, canceled my appointment by phone, then headed home. What timing. The traffic had already stalled, backing up for miles in the southbound direction. Another mudslide snarled traffic. My friend who lives in Santa Cruz left work around 6 Tuesday evening, and didn’t arrive home until 2 am. She sat on the freeway for hours, finally got off the road in nearby Los Gatos, until road crews were able to clear one lane. Several of us offered her a place to stay, but I think she was anxious to get home to her dog.
Unfortunately, many others in the state have not been so lucky. When trees endure years of drought, their roots shrink as a form of self-preservation. When heavy rains come along, the ground is quickly saturated and the water has nowhere to go. Massive trees toppled all over the area, destroying cars, a few homes and stalling our Bay Area Rapid Transit. Several rivers and streams reached and then exceeded flood stage, spilling water into nearby communities.
I took this video of Lexington Reservoir after turning back for home on Tuesday. An hour and a half later, it overflowed its banks into the Los Gatos creek flooding the trails and closing the park.
In between storms, I walked with a friend near Almaden Lake. I’ve never seen it so full, and again, parts overflowed washing out trails.
There are many positives in all of this. For the first time in years, most of the state’s reservoirs are full. Snow pack in the Sierra, which provides a third of our fresh water doubled in a week. On January 3rd, it was only 70% of normal for this time of year. After this series of storms it’s 158% of normal!
According to our local paper, the storms delivered a whopping 350 Billion gallons of water to our reservoirs. I can’t begin to wrap my brain around that number.
The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Beautiful poetry aside, rainy days lift my spirits. I’m not feeling dark or dreary, just hopeful that this could be the beginning of the end of this California drought.
What’s your weather up to today?