California is the latest state besieged by winter storms that have dominated the news this winter, but for some in the golden state the heavy precipitation is welcome news. For those in areas susceptible to brush fires the precipitation is long-awaited relief from the drought that has stricken the state, and Ski resorts on the California/Nevada border are giddy about the fresh snow they are receiving after a slow start to the 2013-2014.
The precipitation, which began with a storm in parts of the state Wednesday, was followed by another storm Thursday which has certainly caused some problems. Rain and wind left thousands of customers without power in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and authorities are keeping watch on barren hills for the threat of mudslides and rivers of debris. 1000 homes in the Glendora area were given mandatory evacuation orders on Thursday. The San Francisco Bay area was under small stream flood warnings, and crashes due to wet roadways slowed commute-hour traffic.
For drought parched areas in California, though, the storms are welcome news for at least some of the residents. 2013 was the driest in 119 years for the state, and 2014 had begun in much the same way. The Van Nuys area of southern California got almost two inches of rain in a six-hour span on Friday, with more expected as the day wore on.
In some California ski resorts, news of the storms is welcomed as a godsend. As of early Friday afternoon, the Sierra Resort at Lake Tahoe had received 18 inches of new snow, and 100 percent of their trails are now open. Communications Manager Steve Hemphill said it’s still snowing and they are expecting more through Sunday. The drought has had a big effect on the ski resorts, and Hemphill said the season got off to a very slow start. “We were lucky to have an early season snow that got us through the holidays,” he said, and went on to explain that his resort “averages 480 inches per season and with the latest 18 inches we are only at 184.” Resorts in Tahoe are breathing a sigh of relief, as the latest storms will help them stay open throughout the current season, which they like to extend through Easter weekend. Hemphill also said he was happy because the impact of the new snow “is not only good for the ski areas, but also good for the state.” Another benefit of the snow in the high country is the spring runoff when the snow melts. Mountain runoff is a major factor in filling reservoirs for the year ahead.
Those who view the storms in California as welcome news will have some more time to enjoy them. The National Weather Service is expecting the wet weather to continue through Sunday for the southern part of the state, but taper off in the San Francisco area on Saturday. There is good news for other drought-stricken areas too, as the storms are expected to move across the desert and deliver some much-needed moisture to parts of Arizona and southern Nevada. Phoenix, AZ is expecting its first measurable rain in two months.
By Chuck Podhaisky