From Drought To Flooding: California Struggles With Turnaround

 

In a drastic about-face, California has gone from historically desperate drought conditions to an inundation of water that has brought its own set of problems.  In one indicator of the dramatic difference, snowpack on the Sierra mountains recently measured 135 percent of its seasonal average.

“We haven’t seen an event of this magnitude in at least a decade,” Mike Anderson, a state climatologist, told the Los Angeles Times.  While things are getting wetter, that doesn’t necessarily herald an end to the state’s drought woes.  “A few big storms alone won’t end California’s six-year drought,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “However, the appearance this year of a ‘Pineapple Express’ — a type of atmospheric river originating in the tropics — is making a welcome dent in California’s water deficit.”

A Paul Bunyan statue keeps its feet dry above the flooded campground at River Bend campground Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, near Forestville, Calif., where the Russian River crested well above flood stage. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

A Paul Bunyan statue keeps its feet dry above the flooded campground at River Bend campground Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, near Forestville, Calif., where the Russian River crested well above flood stage. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

While making a positive difference, the newfound water levels have also begun to cause significant problems out west.

“After another round of heavy rains soaked parts of California, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Monday for several counties dealing with an estimated tens of million dollars in damage from flooding, erosion and mud flows,” the Los Angeles Times reported in subsequent coverage of the rainfall. “The governor’s order cited the destruction to roads and highways from the so-called atmospheric river that has pummeled Southern California, the Central Coast, the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area since early January. A second emergency declaration was also issues for a spate of Northern California counties battered by rainstorms.”

Roads and freeways throughout the state were closed due to flooding and potential rock slides. Power lines have been knocked out by falling trees, leaving 9,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers without electricity. Schools have closed and evacuation orders have been issued.

“Sunday’s rainfall also broke at least two daily precipitation records,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “Los Angeles International Airport received 2.94 inches of rain Sunday, surpassing the previous record of 1.94 inches set on Jan. 22, 1983. Camarillo, which got 2.79 inches of rain Sunday, beat the previous daily record of 1.06 inches of rain set on Jan. 22, 1997.”

If the storm surge keeps up, it will become something that many regions of the state just aren’t ready for after years of dry conditions.

“Sixty percent of our system is not ready for a 100-year storm,” Sacramento Utilities Director Bill Busath told The Sacramento Bee. “We’re not complacent, but right now we don’t have money for capital improvements.”

It may seem counterintuitive with California’s reputation for prolonged drought, but future damage from excessive water is something that Sacramento is anticipating.  As further evidence to the scope of the situation with the recent evacuations currently underway:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/12/us/california-oroville-dam-failure/index.html

Flood water surrounds green houses along Lovers Lane in Hollister, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Nearby Pacheco Creek overflowed flooding 50 homes. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Flood water surrounds green houses along Lovers Lane in Hollister, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Nearby Pacheco Creek overflowed flooding 50 homes. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)