First off, out here in California, it is wet and has been for over a week. If you are from a typical inhabited part of the planet, that may seem hardly newsworthy. Out here, it’s the biggest thing since Russian agents hired by Trump hacked voting machines in key states to steal the election from Hillary in a manner so egregious and outrageous that it causes us all to forget even more how Hillary stole the nomination from Sanders in the first place. Right, Bernie-oids?
Or something. The details seem somewhat uncertain. Except for the Hillary-stole-the-nomination-from-Bernie part. That’s pretty clear, because of the emails that the Russians are said to have liberated from the DNC servers say so. I think. So, if I understand this right – unlikely, I admit – one set of Socialists used their nefarious yet l33t hacking chops to make sure another Socialist was defeated by an elderly New York Liberal in the primaries so that she could lose to another elderly New York Liberal running as a Republican in the general election, thereby advancing the Russian agenda, which has long been to turn the US into a Socialist country – via keeping a Socialist from winning the election. Kind of a Lao Tzu meets Machiavelli in Byzantium and starts plotting with Odysseus sort of thing.
I digress. Allow me to clarify the weather situation. You may see pictures such as this:
This would be Industrial Way in Petaluma, CA. That does look serious. Petaluma, the former Egg Capital of the World, home to the beautiful St. Vincent’s Church, a large Portuguese population as well the Clan o’ M’ Wife, is largely situated on the – you’ll be amazed – floodplain of the Petaluma River. Much of this floodplain is about 12 inches higher than the estuary know as San Francisco Bay at high tide.
Why, a sane person from much of the inhabited world might ask, would anyone build a town on a floodplain? Such a person is not a native Californian. It might be a couple decades between any actual flooding, plenty of time to settle in, build a town, get used to the beautiful weather. When such flooding does inevitably happen, it will seem an unusual and arbitrary act of a cold, heartless Universe and not something any doofus could have predicted. (1)
Same goes for earthquakes, only doubly so. Major cities – San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose – are built right on top of major faults, or on mudflats sure to liquify in a major earthquake, or both. Do not suspect that this what we shall generously call odd optimism is a Northern California thing – not so! Los Angeles is not only built on one of the world’s scariest fault systems, it is almost coextensive with the floodplains of three rivers! Rivers that, in the state of nature, regularly flooded the LA basin in a totally not funny way. A little over 100 years ago, engineers started channeling and paving and otherwise rendering hideously ugly the three big rivers – the Los Angeles, San Fernando and San Gabriel – turning them into little more than giant concrete flood control channels. This is OK, in a way, since all the water that would naturally flow down them is now confined to reservoirs, evidently so 20 million people can water their golf courses and lawns in what is, essentially, a desert. On a typical summer day, any of the rivers is an ankle-deep trickle down a huge concrete slot. The water is up in the hills, in fake lakes and tanks.
I again digress. A few decades ago, the Army Corp of Engineers decided enough with the flooding, already, and did a bunch of work on the Petaluma River that, so far, has prevented any really serious flooding. But it also made some nice flat land that even Californians were not willing to bet a building on look a lot more attractive – thus, some industries – Industrial Way, right? – built some concrete slab tilt-ups and paved some roads right down near the river – right down near here. And, while the Army’s work has greatly mitigated the flooding, if you push it hard enough, you can still build in Petaluma so that a once every 20 year rainy season will flood your streets.
Thus, dedicated professionals can indeed get pictures of flooding, with swamped cars and everything, in order to make the reading/viewing public aware of the disaster out here in the West. But, seriously, most of the flooding is out in the middle of nowhere, meaning vineyards and pastures are getting flooded, not streets and homes (with few exceptions). About 95% of Californians looking out their windows would see Damp. Some who live up in the mountains would see Snow. Some very, very few would see flooding worthy of the name.
Yep, we’ve had almost 5″ of rain in the last 3 days, way more further up in the hills, and many feet of snow in the mountains – and it’s still raining and snowing. Reservoirs that get their water from the Sierra are almost all way above their average levels for this time of year. Reservoirs nearer the coast or otherwise far from the Sierra had gotten very, very low, and are filling up from a much lower starting point, for the most part, so they still have a way to go. Sierra snowpack, which supplies about a third of California’s used-by-people water, is significantly higher than average for this time of year. Local rain gages show some areas reaching their seasonal average total rainfall – with half the rainy season to go. In general, the people here, who have been fed doom and gloom drought predictions for the last few years, are pretty happy with this state of affairs.
The weather is really, really nice almost all the time out here. Once it stops raining – it’s supposed to take a break over the weekend – it will be around 60F and sunny. In the middle of January. Then, typically, rain off and on through February. Come March, it will be sunny and nice most of the time, in April almost all the time, and then it’s sunny and bright until October at the earliest.
So, yea, all of us out here are in imminent danger of being washed out to sea, right after we die in a car crash attempting to dodge a mudslide and getting hit by a falling tree. And snow. If the earthquakes don’t get us first. Whatever you do, stay someplace safe, like Minnesota or Florida.
- In 1834, the Mexican land grant of Rancho Monte del Diablo was made to a Salvio Pacheco, who promptly founded the town of Pacheco, CA. It’s on the floodplain of several creeks that empty into the Bay. After a while, Salvio got tired of having to dry out his ranch and all the building in it every few winters (bad luck! With better timing, could have lived there for years and never seen a flood!). He looked south-east, and realized that his massive land grant included not only floodplains and a mountainside, but square miles of hills! So he moved a couple miles, and, perhaps reflecting on how it looked a bit bad to name a town after himself, founded a new town he named after Our Lady, Queen of All Saints. This got shortened to ‘All Saints’, which the local Spanish-speaking population insisted on calling ‘Todos Santos’ on the premise that they all spoke Spanish anyway. When the Yankees got around to noticing the town, they shortened the name further to ‘Concord’. So, the town where I live is not on a floodplain. It is, however, in keeping with the Rules, very near an active fault.