El Niño, Where Are You?

Californians have been eagerly, albeit somewhat nervously, awaiting El Niño, the weather pattern that brings winter rains to a state experiencing more than four years of drought. Here in Southern California, people early on got to work cleaning leaves and debris from their roof drains. Some purchased and installed rain barrels to capture and keep whatever drops eventually fall. They’ve stacked sandbags along low edges of their property. And they’ve turned off their outside sprinkler systems.

But where is the rain?

ladwp sprinklersEarlier this month there was a fairly decent downfall that got everyone’s hopes up. At our house, it told us that the leaking roof we had repaired a year ago had reopened in one spot and presented a new spot elsewhere. We called the roofer who offered to come before the next anticipated rainfall, and he did, coming hours before the storm was projected to get underway. We agreed to call him, one way or the other, to let him know whether his repairs had worked. But it didn’t rain that night. Nor since.

The forecast was revised to predict a heavy rain later in the week. Never happened. Now there’s no talk of rain anytime in the near future. There’s snow in the mountains that’s exciting skiers and water experts but nothing down here. It’s chilly, but the sun continues to shine.

Snow on the mountains

And the app on my smart phone continues to read:

“Chance of rain 0%.”




Drought. Really?

after stormDriving home, I heard the ping indicating a text message, and when I pulled up to the stoplight, read from a friend on the East Coast: “Wondering if you are safe and sound. The storms in LA are scary!” I pointed my phone straight ahead and sent her this picture. “What a beautiful day!” she wrote back.

And it was, at that point. The sky looked almost celestial. All that was missing was a trumpeting angel or two.

When I got home I wrote my friend that yes, at times the storm was scary. During the night before, the roaring winds and sheets of rain woke us. Our Great Dane Lotte — who, unlike all eight of her predecessors, never gets on the furniture – climbed up in bed with us. The next day gave us a cornucopia of weather patterns: rain, sunshine, more rain, more sunshine, dark menacing clouds, clear blue skies with puffy white clouds hanging over the mountaintops. California weather is nothing if not dramatic.

But we’re in a drought and will continue so for a long time, say government officials and water professionals, a fact that Los Angeles Times political columnist George Skelton finds annoying. “Highways have closed because of flooding. Cars have been hydroplaning and been swept off roads. Creeks are leaping their banks. The Los Angeles River has become a real river. That’s hardly a drought,” he wrote.

He chided officials for their doomsday talk and urged them to come up with a better definition for the current situation. “How about simply calling it a water shortage?” he wrote. He also challenged them to start moving on worthwhile projects to avoid future drought conditions. The voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond but, he’s told, it will take at least three years for projects to be selected and construction begun.

This drought thing has been going on for many years, and most people are doing their best to not waste water. It’s about time that politicians and special interest groups stop just talking about drought and start doing something about it.