Photos from NASA’s Earth Observatory show the aftereffects of massive amounts of rain on California’s hydrologic system. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says strong atmospheric rivers can transport 7.5 to 15 times the average water flow at the mouth of the Mississippi River. These flowing columns of condensed water vapor produce “significant levels of rain and snow,” and can account for 30-50% of the Pacific Coast’s rain and snow.
Archive for date: February 22nd, 2017
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Consistent storms across California this year have helped improve drought conditions and bring above-average downpours to cities throughout the state. According to the Western Regional Climate Center, rainfall since Oct. 1, 2016—the beginning of the water year—is 120 percent to 200 percent of normal in regions across California. The heavy rainfall is a sign of relief for drought conditions throughout the state, which have continued to improve in 2017, according to weekly reports from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
After a nail-biting week of rain, it looks like the Oroville Dam spillway crisis is under control, for now. Downstream communities, including the nearly 200,000 people whose lives were disrupted by a two-day evacuation, will remain on alert as the large snowpack in the Northern Sierra (more than 150 percent of normal) begins to melt this spring.
A statewide downpour brought chaos to Californians this week, but it also provided some welcome relief to the state’s 20 million residents who have suffered from drought conditions for more than four years. The record precipitation now has some experts declaring the drought over. The drought began in 2012, but California Gov. Jerry Brown did not declare a drought state of emergency until January 2014. A response team was later established, and state lawmakers have allocated over $3 billion for drought relief and water management improvements.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is planning to visit the Lake Oroville dam as crews work to shore up damaged spillways that forced emergency evacuations in three counties. The recently elected California Democrat will survey the damage and repair work by air on Thursday. She’ll also get a briefing from state officials, the Butte County sheriff’s office and the National Guard. The water level behind the dam began dropping Wednesday morning after it rose about 5 feet when a series of storms dumped rain in the area. The lake is still nearly 50 feet below capacity.
Water managers in a California community say they’re taking advantage of a break in storms to draw down water from behind a dam that is full, causing a creek to overflow and flood parts of San Jose. Jim Fiedler of the Santa Clara Valley Water District said Wednesday that Anderson Dam is full. Releases over its spillway have flooded neighborhoods in San Jose. The district is required to keep the dam 68 percent of capacity after inspections found that it could fail in a major earthquake.
Gov. Jerry Brown has visited crews responding to damaged spillways at Lake Oroville in Northern California. Brown’s office sent a tweet Wednesday saying the Democratic governor met with people at the incident command center and surveyed California’s flood control system. Brown’s visit comes after authorities on Feb. 12 ordered 188,000 people to evacuate when water overflowing from the lake caused dangerous erosion around an emergency spillway.
It wasn’t just talk — Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is proposing legislation that would require California to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources. The measure, SB 584, was introduced without fanfare before last week’s deadline for new proposals in the Capitol. If approved, 100% of the state’s electricity would need to come from clean sources such as solar and wind by 2045. De León first suggested the idea in a conversation with The Times last month.
Over the last two weeks, heavy rains pushed water levels at Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir into the danger zone, with officials warning it could overflow. That happened over the weekend, sending massive amounts of water into the Coyote Creek, which runs through the heart of San Jose. By Tuesday, the creek was overflowing at numerous locations, inundating neighborhoods, flooding hundreds of homes and forcing the frantic evacuations of more than 14,000 residents, who remained out of their homes Wednesday.
As a kid growing up in the Southland, I got my weather tips on the television from a mustached meteorologist named Dr. George. He would get quite excited when a big rainstorm was heading our way, breathlessly drawing pressure gradients and furiously waving a wand as if commanding a symphony. It felt like something epic and rare was about to happen. I still find myself mesmerized by meteorologists and wonder if new insights into atmospheric rivers will move the needle with key California water decisions.