Monday, February 21, 2005

Not Necessarily Singin' in the Rain

So here we are sitting in the middle of the 5th highest total rainfall season in recorded California history, which is rapidly closing in on numbers 4 and 3. So, I can honestly say that I can never remember this much rainfall, living all of my 33 years here in SoCal. Huge sinkholes are opening in the streets, swallowing and killing utility workers there to help fix it. Teenagers are being killed by boulders rolling into their bedrooms, and swimming pools are sliding down the hillsides.

Our townhome is situated on the edge of a ravine, actually. The thought of us sliding 7 or 8 stories down has crossed my mind quite a few times in the past couple of months. But, the growth on the sides of the ravine is mature and we also have a retaining wall to help us out. It has definitely crossed my grandmother's mind, as she called my father (why she didn't just call us, I am not sure) to ask if the hill we are on is safe. My dad reassured her that it was, but who can really say?

Not too far from here, a high school senior was sitting in her bedroom on her computer, and the next second she is killed by a very large boulder that rolled from the hillside above their apartment. It boggles my mind to think that if she had just got up seconds before to get a snack from the kitchen, or go talk to her parents in the living room, she would be alive right now.

I am sure that people in other states are shaking their heads in confusion over all the fuss, since our rainfall total so far is a tad above thirty inches. But the problem with us is that the state infrastructure is not prepared to take on this type of rain. We are really a semi-arid climate, with water simply running off the terrain, looking for the quickest path to the ocean. Flooding is extremely widespread, from streets to underground parking garages. There are lots of hillsides in Southern California, and they are usually crowded with homes, some with dubious solidity underfoot. Our freeways are often sunken affairs that use pumps to ensure that they remain unflooded. Tonight, a major set of pumps wasn't working, turning a heavily driven freeway into a very large and unwelcome flood channel. Our streets are paved with asphalt that is used to sunshine, not the combined effects of pounding sheets of water and the ever-present SUV's and trucks that tear up the roadways. I shudder to think at the number of potholes that will need to be filled after this is all over.

And honestly, even though a large number of people who live here are not native, the constant good weather must make them forget how to drive in inclement weather. When rain hits, people drive way too fast, and try to ford flooded intersections in their Chevy Malibus. Thus necessitating swift water rescue teams to come and haul them out of their cars. Some unfortunates even went up to the mountains last month after a large rainstorm, lured by the beauty of the snow that can be seen for miles and miles. At least 4 people, including 3 children, were swept away when they ventured too close to a swollen, fast-running creek.

So, the newscasts are full of "Storm Watch" lead-ins, and usually they do them when there is even just a trickling of rain. But, for the past two months, the storms have definitely warranted the extra attention. The sound and the fury indeed.

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