Welcome to California, El Niño. How long will you be staying?

If you’re living in Los Angeles and happened to be on Twitter yesterday, it would be hard not to notice that #ElNiño was trending. We had over an inch and a third of rain yesterday—I know that doesn't sound like much, but it is more than the city had any day in 2015 except for Sept. 15, when we got what was left of Mexico’s Hurricane Linda. And the forecasts have been for rains to continue all week—and perhaps intermittently for the next two or three months. 

On the surface that sounds like a good thing. After years of drought, if there is one thing California needs, it’s rain.

Advertisement

The paradox is, we are not really made for rain out here. The ground here doesn’t hold much water, which leads to quick flooding and mudslides. Local cities have been stockpiling sand bags and cleaning out storm drains for some time. Even so, in Hollywood yesterday there were streets with large puddles almost immediately after the rains began. Avenues and even three freeways flooded. 

It is less one heavy rain that could cause real problems, though, than the possibility of an ongoing series of smaller storms, wearing away at the ever-more water-soaked hills, turning small mudslides into what climatologist Bill Patzert told the L.A. Times could be “mudflows [of] 2 to 3 feet in height.” Current predictions suggest Los Angeles will get two to three inches of rain by Friday, which is as much as downtown Los Angeles usually gets in the entire month.

And the real danger is probably later in the winter. This El Niño is predicted to be one of the three strongest in the last 50 years. Both of the others caused over $500 million in damage here. In February of 1998, Los Angeles got almost 14 inches of rain, which is the Southern California version of "a very bad sign." Seriously, there were people in Pasadena building boats.

Temporary shelters have been opened to support the city’s large homeless population, adding up to 1,131 beds to the 2,000 already in place. But bureaucracy being by nature inhuman, the locations of the temporary shelters can only be discovered by calling 2-1-1 or going to a city website so as to prevent walkups. The idea may be to prevent any one shelter from overcrowding; even so, it’s a bit of a mixed message. Come get out of the rain; but please don't come unannounced. 

When it comes to precipitation, Angelenos are easily excited. A gentle misting is classified as a “storm.” At just the threat of rain people refuse to drive. (It’s true. Freeways are always clearer on rainy days. Barring the accidents, of course.) Meteorologists’ news reports become soliloquies equal parts anxiety and adoration.

But at the same time, this is still Los Angeles. People here know hype when they see it. It takes more to be impressed.

Wait and see, bruh. Wait and see. 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
2 years ago
For a discussion on how California has made its own bed on water distribution and exacerbated the situation read an assessment by a man born in the Central Valley: http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/?p=8890
Chuck Kotlarz
1 year 10 months ago
Near the end of the article the writer notes, “Redistribution, not expansion of supplies, is the liberal creed for water, just as it is for wealth.” An excellent analogy…billionaires are drowning in wealth and main street is in a forty-year drought.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Pro-life advocates participate in the annual March for Life in Washington January 2017. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Describing abortion as a “key social evil” in the United States, the Jesuits say: “The most fundamental building block of a just social order is respect for human life.”
America StaffJanuary 19, 2018
Men carry a replica of Peru's most revered religious icon, the "Lord of Miracles," during an Oct. 18, 2017 procession in Lima. Each year thousands of Catholics gather to commemorate the image's survival in a 17th-century earthquake that destroyed Lima. (CNS photo/Mariana Bazo, Reuters)
Father Ernesto Cavassa was provincial of the Jesuits in Peru from 1998 to 2004, and president of the Conference of Latin American Jesuit Provincials from 2005 to 2012.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 18, 2018
For over 45 years, Feminists for Life has been committed to ending the practice and legality of abortion and promoting the feminism of Susan B. Anthony.
Serrin M. FosterJanuary 18, 2018
A President Donald Trump supporter is see seen at the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office.
Catholic News ServiceJanuary 18, 2018