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January 4, 2008

Left-coast storm
Posted by Teresa at 08:37 PM *

A huge storm has been hitting the Pacific coast and inland areas as far as the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada. Since this is the Flickr-enabled modern world, there are pictures:

Mythlady, Big storm coming.
Jamie Schneider, the day before.
Camerainhand, San Joaquin Valley, There’s a storm coming in.
Doglington, San Francisco, The storm rolls in and The big storm hits us with a wallop.
Docpop, Storm damage in the Mission photoset.
RCoshow, Portola District, Big Rainstorm January 4, 2008 photoset.
Rhett Redelings, San Anselmo and Sausalito, serious flooding photoset.
Crystal Secretin, 1st storm of 2008 photoset.
MonkeyDudeSF, Jan 08 Storm photoset.
Jbr0wn6, significant flooding: Storm 1/04/08 photoset.
Marcelo Tourne, San Francisco, had a tree fall on his house and car.
Clickfarmer, sandbagging and a rising creek.
Autumn Nguyen, Sacramento area, Downed trees in the neighborhood.
Diesel Dub, Laguna/Monterey, rain and high wind.
Mistr Webmastr, 1/4/08 storms photoset.
Anthonybrown, San Francisco: Many trees down and Storm batters the Lowry Park Zoo.
Ex.libris, it’s cool for cats.
Tedore, Snow in Squaw Valley.
Wildebryde, snow starts falling in the Sierra Nevada photoset.
Michael448, Pacifica, rough surf in Utata.
Foftychel, Bay Area, storm and aftermath.
Exuberance, heavy runoff in the Potrero District, and a video.
Cinnamon.Bun, tree.
Torrez, Noe Valley, Tree fall down.
Mindy Moritz, tree, sod, and shrubbery.
Darth Lefty, Folsom, tipped trees.
You Blockhead, That crazy storm from Karate Kid II came to San Francisco.
Philip Misiowiec, Northern CA, Casualties.
Justalexis, storm damage and standing water.
Talley 1144, A rainy commute on Route 1.
Sothisisparenthood, South Bay, When it rains, it pours here.
Marc Davis, Colma CA, raining sideways.
Blp1979, braving the storm in the Alameda ferry.
19541954, Insane surfer at Half Moon Bay.

Comments on Left-coast storm:
#2 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:09 AM:

KCBS radio reported "unofficial" measurements of wind at the peak of a mountain near Clayton (east bay) at 100+mph, and several (official?) measurements of 70+mph. These are hurricane-force winds.

My horses chose to stand out in the rain and eat hay rather than come inside. Must be nice to be that warm.

#3 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:20 AM:

Indeed. it's blowing around the eaves right now. Nice images, though that surfer is the wildest . . .

#4 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:28 AM:

We still look like a DMZ here in Tulsa, OK. Today's winds knocked the rest of the limbs down. 41deg F today, 71deg F by Monday---pardon my punctuation abuse but: ?!?!?!

#5 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:13 AM:

Definitely an interesting day.

Here in Santa Cruz, there was a impressively loud noise, remarkably similar to that of a big Rubbermaid garden shed getting blown to shit in a windstorm and scattering shovels, rakes, hoes and other sharp, heavy objects all the hell over a swampy, rain-soaked yard. Turned out it was caused by our big Rubbermaid garden shed doing just exactly that. The awful DYNNE would've loved it.

I'm sorry now it didn't occur to me to put the results on flickr.

#6 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:21 AM:

I'm about 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It's been raining steadily since about 1:30 PM, varying between average and heavy. The winds started to kick up about two hours ago, but so far, they've been no more than moderate.

On the other hand, my friend who lives at the 6000-foot level in the mountains outside Yucaipa already has his car packed in case the flash flood/mudslide warning turns into an evacuation notice.

I hope the stray cat who was howling outside my window a couple of hours ago found the food and cat carrier I put in the back yard...

#7 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:03 AM:

Santa Monica. Rain, hard wind, more rain, and no electricity . . .

#8 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:58 AM:

I can only look out the window and see a little of the state; this is just a report on local conditions. Still...

When San Francisco papers start using words like "slammed", "overwhelmed", "walloped", and "massive" in the context of rain, what that actually means is more than one and a half inches. (THE SKY IS FALLING! AND I'M WET! I'M HYSTERICAL, AND THE THE SKY IS FALLING, AND I'M WET!)

We only get twenty-odd inches of rain a year. What we call a "thunderstorm", most of the people in the rest of the country would call "partially cloudy." I live in the Mission. If you look at docpop's "Storm damage in the Mission" photoset up there, you'll notice that there aren't any photos of storm damage. There are a few shots of branches that got overstressed and broke, of course-- but note that they fell straight down. There wasn't any dramatic windstorm that tore trees asunder and hurled them around like toothpicks. What happened was wind-- as opposed to the ~360 days of breezes and zephyrs we experience during the rest of the year. Indeed, poke around the City long enough on any day, and you can find examples of branches that fell on cars from sheer ennui. (How does this come about? Because being a highly urbanized and Internetworked people of a seasonal desert, performing routine tree maintenance is as removed from our conceptual frameworks as jai alai in Brigadoon. We keep trying to heal the trees by applying Macintosh file system patches ["These are like B-trees, right?"], or sometimes just speaking to them encouragingly and hugging them.)

Hang on for a few more days, though. Once the ground dampens a bit more, Southern California's house-perched-on-edge-of-cliff-falls-into-ocean season should begin. I know you East Coast types always enjoy the footage of the bottle blondes saying, "I don't know how this could have happened!"

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:31 AM:

I was seriously impressed by the IR image that weather.com had on their front page yesterday afternoon. The spiral covered the whole distance from Mexico to Canada (or from Canada to Mexico, depending on where you were viewing it from).

It started getting heavy about 9pm (PT) last night, and I woke at intervals during the night to hear it pouring rain. Right now it's not raining, but still gray out. (Winds were from the east, mostly, because my porch is dry, along with teh potted plants that are on it.)

Have they gotten the semi on the Richmond bridge righted yet?

#10 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:35 AM:

Stephan @8,

But it is a storm for our area*. I'm still going to sympathize with non-coastal-Californian friends if they have a "horrible drought" of 1 month without rain even if we easily and often go 6 months without rain (aka "summer").

-----
* and, I'd argue, a true storm. If airlines were avoiding flights to the area--the flight we're taking today was canceled yesterday (as were a bunch of others)--then it wasn't just what's considered routine elsewhere.

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:48 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 10... Didn't trees some across some BART tracks? Based on that and on all the emails that my employer's SF office was sending out, I'd say it was a storm.

#12 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:13 AM:

We seem to have lucked out in Los Angeles (touch wood) - I was able to take my water-phobic dog out for a walk during a break in the rain about an hour ago. She was severely displeased yesterday, when even a three-minute piddle break soaked her to the skin. It's currently mostly dry, although the sky has that spongy gray quality that threatens to start raining at any time. So far we've avoided most knock-stuff-over winds, at least in my Hollywood neighborhood. Not sure about flooding yet. Hopefully we'll be able to get the mutt to and from the groomers before the rain starts again.

#13 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:18 AM:

The rain was unimpressive, but with 60 mile an hour winds howling across the region and the Richmond Bridge closed in both directions, it was stormy enough for me. Not a hurricane, not at all. My house sprung a leak: frantic calls, blue tarps, buckets, etc. House repairs in my future.

It's supposed to rain off and on for the next two days, clear on Monday, and then a new storm rides in on Tuesday. As we say, The storm door is open.

#14 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:27 AM:

One might, of course, use some version of the Beaufort Scale to assess and compare wind speeds. Since few Making Light contributors will have access to a Man-of-War, we might have to use slightly different references.

0 -- Calm: whole building suffused with unbearable pepper fumes while making pepper oil in microwave.

1 -- Light Air: downwind neighbours occasionally sneeze.

2 -- Light Breeze: kitchen door may be opened if on upwind side.

3 -- Gentle Breeze: Tingling of mucuous membranes on upwind side cease. Downwind neighbours sneezing with excessive vigour.

4 -- Strong Breeze: Passing Police Officers become nervous. Downwind neighbours start checking infectious diseases on Wikipedia.

5 -- Fresh Breeze: Passing Police Officers call Fire Department to deal with suspected chemical spill. Cats start using ropes and karabiners to climb trees.

6 -- Strong Breeze: Cats stop climbing trees and start climbing pavements. City suffused with eye-watering aroma of hot pepper. Police Officers take post to protect donut supplies and other critical infrastructure.

7 -- Near Gale: Cats snuggle. Intertubes slow, depending on alignment with wind direction. Trees in motion. Isengard falls. Englishmen start playing cricket and other summer sports.

8 -- Gale: Toy boats heave-to in the bath and reef sails.

9 -- Strong Gale: Bathtowels become embarrassingly insecure.

10 -- Storm: Baths empty. Towels reefed. Cats learning tunneling from mice and rabbits.

11 -- Hurricane: That which no towel could withstand.


#15 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Weather is noncomparable; winds that Texas takes for granted blow over 100 foot trees, here, which the state climatologist calls "force magnifiers." This storm is hitting the subduction zone, where stopes are young and steep and unstable, utterly unlike the older, stable, and heavily eroded mountains of the east. (When I am made Godking of the Universe, everyone will read John McPhee's Control of Nature which does a great job of expaing that process).

It's also hitting my windows with drops of sleet that splat out into the size of Eisenhower dollars and sound like someone poundinfg to be let in; otherwise I would still be asleep.

#16 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:47 AM:

(obviously, I should still be abed, what with proofreading and revising twice and still having several stupid typos)

#17 ::: Angelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Here on the backside of the Hollywood Hills, we got about 12 solid hours of rain, and having just moved here from the midwest, my observation is that this place is just not set up to handle it. According to the papers, the SFV got most of the flooding.

Major roads have dips built into them (to slow people down? Sort of an inverse speed bump?) that become foot-deep creeks at times like this. We live on the LA "River", which is usually a thin strip of water running down the middle of a 50-yd-wide concrete gully. Yesterday, when I was walking home from the bus stop, the whole basin was full and moving at break neck speed.

This is the second of three storms we're supposed to get; the first missed us but hit SF. And while I agree with Stephan @#8 about the "sky is falling" tone, the truth is they really are not used to this out here.

#18 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:00 PM:

Angelle, it's not just "used to it" or "set up for it"- how close was your Midwest home to a 5000 ft. gain in elevation? Water runs down hill; water runs down steep hills fast.

#19 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:11 PM:

We had a stack of cargo containers blown off the dock here about a week and a half ago, so pardon me for a moment:

Boo. Hoo.

This Alaskan Old Fart moment brought to you by an apprentice Alaskan Old Fart.

#20 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:21 PM:

Angelle, it's true we are not "used to" storms like this -- but we should be. They show up every 3-5 years.

Alaskan Young Fart, this storm has left a million and a half people with no power: no big deal, you say, after all, nothing compared to Midwest storms...unless you are 82 years old, ill, and living alone on a sliding hillside. The same people who are least equipped to ride out great storms will be in danger from smaller ones. It's not the folks (like me) who can cope that I worry about (blue tarps, leaks, BFD) it's the folks who can't. Folks in Nevada are being evacuated from their homes due to flooding. No big deal, unless it's you. //rant

#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:34 PM:

One of the "Annotated Thermometer" things. As you might expect, the original (of this one) was posted by someone in the New York City area. Silly bugger thinks that ten degrees is cold.

60 - Californians put on sweaters
(if they can find one in their wardrobe)

50 - Miami residents turn on the heat

40 - You can see your breath
Californians shiver uncontrollably
Minnesotans go swimming

35 - Italian cars don't start

32 - Water freezes

30 - You plan your vacation to Australia
Minnesotans put on T-shirts
Politicians begin to worry about the homeless
British cars don't start
Your boogers freeze

25 - Boston water freezes
Californians weep pitiably
Minnesotans eat ice cream
Canadians go swimming

20 - You can hear your breath
Politicians begin to talk about the homeless
New York City water freezes
Miami residents plan vacation further South

15 - French cars don't start
You plan a vacation in Mexico
Cat insists on sleeping in your bed with you

10 - Too cold to ski
You need jumper cables to get the car going

5 - You plan your vacation in Houston
American cars don't start

0 - Alaskans put on T-shirts
Too cold to skate

-10 - German cars don't start
Eyes freeze shut when you blink

-15 - You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo
Arkansans stick tongue on metal objects
Miami residents cease to exist

-20 - Cat insists on sleeping in your pajamas with you
Politicians actually do something about the homeless Minnesotans shovel snow off roof
Japanese cars don't start

-25 - Too cold to think
You need jumper cables to get the driver going

-30 - You plan a two week hot bath
The Mighty Monongahela freezes
Swedish cars don't start

-40 - Californians disappear Minnesotans button top button
Canadians put on sweaters
Your car helps you plan your trip South

-50 - Congressional hot air freeze
Alaskans close the bathroom window

-80 - Hell freezes over
Polar bears move south

Actually: -40 New Hampshire Girl Scouts sell cookies door-to-door. *(True story. One day, when the temperature was forty below, so the school buses wouldn't start because the diesel fuel (using the new non-polluting formula tested for a solid year in California) gelled, the local Girl Scouts were faced with a day off from school. What more perfect thing to do than go sell cookies?)

#22 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:39 PM:

Lizzy L. you have expressed that well and concisely.

And it turns out what woke me up was the seed feeder that hangs from the peach tree (and has hung there securely through all the other storms of the past three years) getting loose and hitting the sliding door.

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:02 PM:

Not only am I a native Californian, but I also finished rereading John McPhee's The Control of Nature about three weeks ago. So the situation in Southern California - particularly Angelle's description of the LA River* - is ringing a lot of bells.

My next question is, how was last year's fire season? It's not just a soil-retaining undergrowth question, like it is in Northern California. The San Gabriel Mountains have soil that becomes water repellent after fire, lubricating mudslides and debris flows.

And a fast-moving mudslide with boulders the size of vans can take a fair few containers off of anyone's dock.

-----
* And now you know why that tiny little stream needs a big channel

#24 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:13 PM:

The most memorable sights I saw yesterday were while driving, so no photos from me. One of them was the cleanup after an accident— they were rolling up three hundred feet of fencing. I assume that one edge was damaged by the accident and the wind ripped the rest off. (Chain link fencing with privacy slats.)

In terms of nasty, the people I'm worried about are in the Sierras. 140+ mph gusts in the passes, with ice— they basically said driving in the mountains was a good way to get dead. (Bad time to be in Truckee— you know, where the Donner Party got stuck. So we put a town there...)

But in terms of nasty, the only unusual damage was caused by wind. Super-saturate the ground and start with high winds and it doesn't matter if you're prepared or not, stuff is going over. Trees, street signs, anything with sail area. And hmm, a lot of people have been planting coast redwoods, which have a notoriously shallow root system...

#25 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:50 PM:

The plains-states ice storm in mid-December led to some spectacular pictures (and destruction) as well. These are all from the Oklahoma City area, but I think the storm was larger than that.

Closeups of ice on trees, so you can see just how coated they were:
http://flickr.com/photos/antonka/2101839690/
http://flickr.com/photos/antonka/2101623433/
http://flickr.com/photos/antonka/2101621693/

And the effects of so much ice on the trees, some of it beautiful, some of it heartbreaking:
http://flickr.com/photos/leia/2103519233/
http://flickr.com/photos/okcbob/2104174788/
http://flickr.com/photos/plmccordj/2103212371/
http://flickr.com/photos/bighams/2108137800/
http://flickr.com/photos/okcbob/2104173672/

#26 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Ten feet of snow in the mountains sounds impressive; the rest is stuff that happens here around Md. every few years. About the only weather we don't have here is haboobs. We start getting worried here, as a rule, when it rains for days, except for the 8-inches-in-an-hour cloudbursts we get too.

Last big winter flood here was about this time in 1999. We got a foot of snow, and then two days later it was seventy degrees. That was the year the Potomac flooded twice (second was Floyd).

#27 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Stephan Zielinski #8:

It's nice to see someone even more verbose than I am. But yeah, you have it exactly right -- it's winter here in Southern California, and every winter there's rain and a few windy storms. Every five years or so these are worse than usual. Many people are discomfited, and a few are injured or killed. This is what's sometimes called "The Forces of Nature", or "a reminder that we do not live in an air-conditioned mall", and serves to re-inform us that The Real World (TM) is not much interested in our convenience.

Meanwhile .... I don't watch TV, but assume that the News Crews still regularly place their camera on the ground, about eight inches from the curb of a steeply-sloping street, and regale us with footage of Raging Torrents. *shrug*

#28 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:40 PM:

Yesterday's driving was interesting here. Areas with no traffic lights and everyone discernibly trying to remember what the protocol is at intersections (aside from pedestrians, who always assume they have the right of way regardless, here). Trees down, vast stretches of standing water, that interesting sensation of a gust hitting your car hard enough to feel like you might achieve flight.... This morning (before the rain started again) the streets were marshy with sodden leaves and branches.

We need the rain, God knows. But maybe we didn't need the winds and the flooding and 600,000 people without power. Yesterday the Older Girl called from school to say, giggling, that there was a power outage and the halls were flooded (everything's an adventure when you're in high school), but she was able to come home to warmth and light.

#29 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 02:56 PM:

I posted some links to some maybe-interesting pictures of the mid-December Oklahoma ice storm, but they got held up for moderation. There are lots of different ways the weather can find to bring down trees, it seems.

#30 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:27 PM:

So does California really get 100-140 mph winds every few years? That's what the news reports are saying this storm has included. (I'm not being snarky here, I'm curious if it is the case.)

#31 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Todd,

Like Virgil, I have led your comment through the circles of Hell and the terraces of Purgatory to where it now stands at #25.

I don't think anyone's comment number references will be affected.

#32 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:51 PM:

And I have made them clickable.

#33 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Thanks, Abi & James!

#34 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:29 PM:

The winds were pretty amazing up here (a couple of hours northwest of Seattle) last night - loud and howling, with trees waving their arms and pounding tables (or houses) and generally making more noise than trees usually do. The yew outside the front room tossed off some of its ornaments, with some breakage.

The cats all tried to burrow under my blanket, except none of the three really likes cats, so I ended up with an undercover cat fight.

It's a good day to be indoors with the heat on.

#35 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:36 PM:

Clifton Royston @ 30

Don't know about So. Cal, but the northern end gets hit with most of the storms that hit Oregon, and we get windstorms every fall, with major wind every 3-5 years (100 mph+ gusts). The last couple of years have both seen major winds; this year we got a 125 mph gust at Lincoln City, on the coast.

Yesterday's storm was mild for wind, only 80 mph, but we got a lot of rain on top of the lot of rain we've been getting, and since the ground is saturated, a lot of trees, especially the big Douglas Firs, are falling over. I wish that would convince the developers to stop bulldozing all the other trees and planting firs because the grow up fast.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:39 PM:

The LA river has a drop of close to 700 feet from its head (near Canoga Park HS) and the ocean. That's no more than 70 miles in length, so you can see what the drop-per-mile is.
Going through downtown, it can run at 30mph or more; I've seen spray 20 feet high at bridge abutments (which are quite large there: think of the bow of a destroyer, in reinforced concrete). I've seen that channel (about fifty feet deep, and 200 feet wide) half full of water - doing that 35mph.

It started raining again about half an hour ago.

#37 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:40 PM:

Todd, those are great pictures, thanks; one of the people on my LJ flist told me that the big old trees down toward the country club in Nichols Hills had taken a big hit, and I had to wonder about the park in Anadarko, which had missed the worst of the tornados on May 3 of '99.

Ice storms make a lot of difference in the size and shape of trees; Oregon white oaks in the ice storm regions around Portland have much more compact and bushy crowns than the ones at my place, where ice storms are a rarity.

#38 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:46 PM:

One of my students this morning reported that the big old eucalyptus tree in his yard toppled last night, missed his house (!), and fell into the street. He called the city, who came and hauled it out of the road. He's responsible for disposal.

On and off heavy rain today, but the winds seem okay. The weather sites say rain tomorrow, clearing Monday, then more rain for three days, then a dry spell. In fact, this seems like normal N. California winter weather to me.

#39 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:47 PM:

Every time I have a conversation about weather with a friend raised in/living in the non-Southwest, I always have to include the caveat, "...for SoCal, anyway." Because I know that for the most part, what we get as weather is peanuts compared to other areas of the country.

That being said, we do get heavy weather occasionally. Like the storms three years ago this month that ended with half a hill burying La Conchita and the 101 closed for a week. There was a period of very heavy rain in late winter or early spring of 1969 or 1970--I distinctly recall Mom driving me to school and my being stunned by a geyser of water ten feet tall in the middle of the street; I assumed it was storm overflow because I never heard anything about a broken water main. We really do have weather in SoCal, and when it gets bad, it can do just as much damage, particularly in human terms, as any other region's weather.

But yes, our newscasters tend to be idiots ("STORM WATCH!!!!!" when we get an inch of rain in two days), and I have no idea why in heaven's name the folks who design streets and drainage and the like never seem to plan for the worst-case scenario. Well, I do--either not smart enough to figure out worst-case, or too costly to implement, or both...

abi @ 23: in October 2007 alone, there were as many as 14 wildfires burning at once in Southern California. NASA has a wonderful (for values of "wonderful" that include "awe-inspiring" and "damned scary") series of satellite photos, with the most recent at the top of the page:
http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/socal_wildfires_oct07.html

And with the usual cautions re: Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_wildfires_of_October_2007

#40 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:48 PM:

I was amused, several years ago, by looking at the notation on Sepulvade Basin on an Auto Club map (that's the SoCal affiliate of AAA): it said 'use caution when raining'. The response to this is 'Caution is what you use on the freeways when it's raining. You stay out of Sepulveda basin when it's raining.' As in, one year the river came up so fast that they had to use air rescue to collect the fire crew that was making sure everyone was out.

#41 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:54 PM:

I don't know what it took, windwise, to achieve the following, but back in 1982, when they were having a round of similar stuff,* my husband was bicycling every day to and from his Stanford job.** One day, it blew up really bad after he'd got headed for home, so that as he described it, not only was the rain going sideways, but so were a few large trees, one of which missed him by only seconds or feet, depending on how you look at it. No, they weren't falling down, they were headed through the air. This after he had to dodge all sorts of sharp pointy stuff coming down out of all the palm trees.

* I think this was the first time the magic words "El Nino" swam into public view
** I worked in San Jose, so I got the car.

#42 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:00 PM:

I stand corrected.

#43 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Bravely and honorably said.

#44 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:10 PM:

Portland: Soggy.

Soggier than usual, that is.

There were some good winds yesterday, but nothing dreadful or damaging.

OTOH, there was a peculiar smell to the air. Fresh, with a bite to it. Maybe my imagination.

#45 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:22 PM:

Thanks, Dave Bell (#14) I've had a reasonably rotten last few weeks, with the most recent news not being much good, but that actually made me LOL, even tho' it hurt.

Good luck to everyone battening down. Our northern areas are having some storms & floods, while there's some big nasty bushfires in the west. This is why I get miffed when people go off & cause trouble. It's not like there's a shortage of problems and everyone's bored by how safe & quiet life is.

#46 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:25 PM:

Do people find it therapeutic to put pictures on flickr etc, of the damage that they have experienced? Or is it partly boasting, to say "We survived a storm that did this!"?

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:48 PM:

P J Evans @ 36

People do forget that LA was built in a desert, and that many deserts are formed by the rain shadow of a mountain range, so the terrain is often very steep. The makes such areas subject to flash floods in heavy rain. I've seen a 400 foot wide arroyo that's 30 or more feet deep in northern New Mexico go from bone dry to half full of white water in a few minutes. Line that with concrete and you've got the LA River.

#48 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:49 PM:

Could it possibly be, "I take pictures, I post a lot of them anyway, is there any reason I *shouldn't* post these?"

Some people document stuff, be it large storms, the Ethernet Reading List, or every episode of B5 or Buffy.

Other people are curious, and want to see/read.

#49 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 07:03 PM:

Joann- thats more reasons. I was just wondering if the ones I came up with might figure.

#50 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 07:36 PM:

guthrie:

Sorry. Both your choices seemed somehow to deprecate the posters, and I didn't see any wiggle room.

#51 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 07:40 PM:

I suppose you could see it that way. That wasn't my intention, but I've never been so good at seeing how others might take something the wrong way.

#52 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 07:49 PM:

guthrie: I think it was the use of "Or is it" suggesting (to me, anyway) that you saw it as either/or. Oh well, not really sure what to suggest for fixing it, and it may be only me.

#53 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Bruce, we're on the front side on those mountains, so not as much rain shadow. In some areas it's more clouds hitting mountains and losing lots of water out of those sudden holes, but some of the worst stuff is just storm cells stalling over a small area (that was what happened to the fire crew: a cell stalled over Woodland Hills and they got several inches in a fairly short time). The big feeder, in terms of volume, to the LA River is Tujunga Wash.

(Although I think McPhee has a point when he talks about how much worse it is over burn areas: probably all those particulates make a difference.)

#54 ::: Angelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:43 PM:

I suppose it's what I get for posting in the wee small hours of my morning, but I wasn't very clear - when I said "not built for it," I meant it in both a natural (soil composition and elevation)and human-constructed sense. My town in Ohio was pretty much wiped off the map by a trio of angry rain-swollen rivers in 1913, leading to an elaborate levy system that we all learned about as school kids. I do NOT mock the destructive capacity of fire, water, or wind.

We were lucky in LA proper, actually - we were slated to get three storms, but the first one passed north of us and blew over semis trying to cross the desert. Only one fatality associated with storm #2, and storm #3 still pending.

Blogger Here in Van Nuys has some interesting pictures from previous heavy rains - 1938 and '52. The '38 picture shows the part of the LA River I cross every day. A very different view. But the dangerous combination of water and SoCal hasn't changed much.

#55 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:25 PM:

30 - Your boogers freeze

More like 15.

#56 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:56 PM:

Flooding in the Northwest is a sometime thing; what we have right now isn't the worst we've seen, but our soil, especially on the slopes of the hills, saturates quickly, and things start to slide. And if the storms come too close together the water accumulates.

However, most people don't know that in 1948, a flood destroyed an entire neighborhood of Portland, where thousands of people lived. Only 15 people died, but many houses, trailers, and barrack buildings, making up the largest public housing project in the US, were destroyed. The neighborhood, called Vanport was not rebuilt: it's now a park.

#57 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 01:33 AM:

I originally planned to drive to work in Fresno yesterday -- it takes a hour from here on CA-99. At the request of my wife I stayed home to work. Mostly, I think, she wanted me to watch our roof to see if we lost too many shakes. It wasn't too bad, but I wish we been able to replace our roof last year. This area still has warnings out that trucks, trailers and such could be blown off the roads.

As a Louisiana native living in California, I can echo the comments about how rain is percieved out here. Back east, raining hard meant that you were soaked through walking without protection from your house to your car.

It is all a matter of what your are used to and prepared for. Until you get up to the Richter 5-6 range, earthquakes don't cause too much panic, but they get do get reviews. "It was a nice little temblor, mostly lateral action with a little vertical component at the end. Just the thing to start the morning off right."

#58 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:05 AM:

Re: fast floods downhill, I grew up with a deep awareness of being in canyons with streams at the bottom (or even dry washes!) because of the Big Thompson Flood of July 1976. My parents told me about it, or I saw the signs along the highways the many times we'd drive windy cramped canyon roads up to the mountains: "Climb to safety! in case of a flash flood.”

That was a case of a storm stalling at the head of the river, far up in the mountains where people didn't necessarily even know it was raining. The river rose so fast that driving down the canyon wouldn't get you out before the car flooded. Cars, trucks, and houses were swept down the river and the people in them were drowned or ripped apart by the force of the water. 145 people died.

Re: Oakland view of the storm the other day: it didn't seem all that different to me, but on the other hand it stopped ferry service on the Bay, which I haven't heard about happening before; and it blew over a semi on the Richmond Bridge and shut the whole bridge down, which is also something I haven't heard of before; so that's pretty impressive.

#59 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:48 AM:

It's not so common, here in the UK, but a rainstorm getting stuck over high ground has caused some major flash floods in Devon and Cornwall.

This is a useful summary, prompted by the 2004 Boscastle flood. The big floods last summer were the result of more general rainfall, but still had the effects of river catchments concentrating the water. Sheffield and Doncaster were hit by the water flowing down the River Don: other areas were wet and soggy, but didn't quite flood.

(And there were a lot of other floods.)

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 07:41 AM:

I've driven through a flash flood in the desert. We were some ways out on the pan in the Eureka Valley*, on a nice, firm roadbed†. The road right there is about 5 feet above the valley floor, running parallel to the mountains. It has 3' diameter culverts under it every now and then.

It was twilight. It had started to rain, and we were at least three quarters of an hour from the campsite. In the mountains beside us, the lightning was magenta, for some reason I have never understood. Then we saw a dark line approaching us.

In 10 minutes or so, the valley where we were went from bone dry to so flooded that the raised road was awash in over a foot of water. We were glad to be driving a Jeep at the time; a lighter car would have lost its footing once or twice. And though the culverts took a lot of the flood, I'll never forget the sheer force of the churning water at their mouths.

-----
* it's north and a bit west of Death Valley
† one of the best dirt roads I've driven on

#61 ::: Angelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:01 AM:

40 - That sent me scrambling to find the Sepulveda Basin on a map - just west of the pass and the 405, yes?

#62 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:55 AM:

Bruce Cohen @56, in 1889, I think (the reference book is in Westfir or Newberg), the town of Linn slid into the Willamette at its confluence with the Clackamas, leaving the stub of West Linn clinging to the hilside above. The whole Portland area is in a pretty dubious place, geologically, especially as dredging the Willamette and Columbia shipping channels leads to more rapid riparian erosion, and the construction of McMansions on the hilltops increases run-off, sheet erosion, and chemical degradation of the marine basalt bedrock.


#63 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:50 PM:

@58, I'd heard (from a conversation in The Other Change of Hobbit) that there were several trucks knocked over on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge; that every time they'd gotten one moved, another would get knocked over, which is what led them to close the bridge.

We'd cleverly picked this weekend for a trip to SF (from LA) to see the Joseph Cornell exhibit at SFMOMA. Having done that, we spent the nastiest day wandering around the East Bay (on foot). We didn't see any major accidents or problems ourselves, although there was a lot of debris from trees scattered around, and BART trains were delayed or unable to reach some stations for a while (when we set out that morning, debris on the line was causing them to stop service south of 24th Street).

When I actually lived in the Bay Area, I'd experienced storms that seemed to be about as bad (from my perspective as a pedestrian BART user) at least a few times, the most memorable of which involved the winds blowing so hard that I literally could not make forward progress towards work for a few minutes. That was actually kind of exhilarating; sadly it stopped before I could decide it was a message telling me to go back home.

@39: We (me from central New York, my partner from England, and both of us having spent a number of years in Vancouver) are much entertained by "Storm Team 4" on the LA NBC station, which covers every piddling rainstorm as if it was the great flood from the Bible. That said, LA does seem to be unstable enough that the rain leads to all sorts of nastiness that I wouldn't have thought of based on my childhood (e.g., landslides, flash floods).


#64 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:59 PM:

JESR @ 62

Yeah, the Multnomah County motto ought to be "Gravity Happens". And I was going to say that the Oregon City motto should be "We suck", but I can't find a photo of them draining the lake; biggest whirlpool I ever did see.

#65 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:22 PM:

@58, I'd heard (from a conversation in The Other Change of Hobbit) that there were several trucks knocked over on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge; that every time they'd gotten one moved, another would get knocked over, which is what led them to close the bridge.

We'd cleverly picked this weekend for a trip to SF (from LA) to see the Joseph Cornell exhibit at SFMOMA. Having done that, we spent the nastiest day wandering around the East Bay (on foot). We didn't see any major accidents or problems ourselves, although there was a lot of debris from trees scattered around, and BART trains were delayed or unable to reach some stations for a while (when we set out that morning, debris on the line was causing them to stop service south of 24th Street).

When I actually lived in the Bay Area, I'd experienced storms that seemed to be about as bad (from my perspective as a pedestrian BART user) at least a few times, the most memorable of which involved the winds blowing so hard that I literally could not make forward progress towards work for a few minutes. That was actually kind of exhilarating; sadly it stopped before I could decide it was a message telling me to go back home.

@39: We (me from central New York, my partner from England, and both of us having spent a number of years in Vancouver) are much entertained by "Storm Team 4" on the LA NBC station, which covers every piddling rainstorm as if it was the great flood from the Bible. That said, LA does seem to be unstable enough that the rain leads to all sorts of nastiness that I wouldn't have thought of based on my childhood (e.g., landslides, flash floods).

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:40 PM:

Claire @ 65... the most memorable of which involved the winds blowing so hard that I literally could not make forward progress towards work for a few minutes

Cue in the wicked-witch theme? That reminds me of the time I was chatting with a gay co-worker about the Republican Log Cabin flying into the sky...

#67 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Bruce Cohen StM, I know the photo of which you speak; there was a copy in the house in West Linn where we used to visit, as were shots of Mr. Linn's sawmill before the flood and landslide. Every time we cross the 205 bridge in daylight I look down at the huge boulders at the confluence of the Clackamas and wonder how people can overlook the possibility for disaster for which they stand mute evidence.

#68 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 05:58 PM:

guthrie: I know that in my first accident, where a hit-and-runner totalled my car, I pulled out my camera and started snapping away because my immediate instinct was to think I could get some really good pictures out of it. (I wasn't even scratched,)

Local helpful bystanders asked if I was taking pictures for insurance purposes; honestly, that idea hadn't even occurred to me. I'm pretty sure that the primary thought of most people on Flickr posting storm photos is, "Hey, that's cool."

#69 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:01 PM:

We got about five inches on Friday. I got about four hours of sleep before I went to drill, because we had to drive to Maia's mother's place and work on bailing out the bunker, wherein a lot of our household goods are being stored.

We lost a bag of paperbacks. But it took two siphons, two pumps and some bailing to keep the water from rising above the pallets.

A new pump was bought the next day (the Home Depot having stopped being 24 hours, we weren't able to buy a new one when we really needed it), and the second storm was much lighter here, because it sat on Santa Barbara for several hours.

#70 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:09 PM:

And we were warm enough here to grill steaks this evening. (Kansas City). Three days ago it was treacherous to walk across our parking pad, ice and snow.

Then again the past few years we've had a January thaw, that sometimes lasts enough that trees bud out.

#71 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Fresh report. After a night of lesser rain, and a day of intermittent drizzle (where I was, in Glendale, Calif.) the weather here has gone wet again.

Perceieved rate is about 1/4 inch per hour, at cell peaks) and a background state of about 3/32nds.

#72 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:11 PM:

One of the popular news/discussion topics in Ontario and Quebec for the last few days has been that it's the tenth anniversary of the start of the Big Ice Storm of '98. It caused a lot of damage to trees and power lines; a lot of people were without electricity for quite some time. One of the items of discussion is that about one in five municipalities still haven't come up with plans to handle such emergencies.

We're just starting a week or so of bizarrely warm weather with rain, following a month with record snowfall. Flooding is expected in many areas. Ah, nature...

#73 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:18 PM:

Adding to Terry @ 71

In Northridge and Chatsworth, at 5:15, the temperature was down to 48, and it was only just getting dark. I think we'll be seeing snow on the mountains tomorrow - if we can see the mountains!

#74 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:47 PM:

JESR (#18) I think those who move to Calif. (esp. LA, I live directly below the mountains he's discussing, and the wash from the basin he talks about clearing out millions of cubic feet of outflow every year to keep flowing, is the one we were siphoning the flood into).

The LA rivers actually drains a few thousands of sq. miles which have peaks that rise from the 500 foot foothills of downtown Pasadena, to the 6,700 ft. peaks of the second range of the Angeles Crest.

P.J. (#40) that was the Flood of 92. Pierce College (where I happened to be, at the time) got 7" in an hour. The Sepulveda Basin is the catchement for the whole valley... I forget how many sq, miles, but it's not trvial. That's why the rules on closing the road got changed.

But when an average rainfall for the area of 4" in an hour all runs into the same damned dam... it rises pretty fast.

Angelle: yes, the basin is tucked into the crook of the 405/101 junction. It is the area from Balboa, to the rise of Burbank (as a roadbed; where the 405 onramp is) and runs along the 101, sort of; as the southern edge, with the northern portion being Victory, with Woodly Ave. as the easternmost entereing road.

Part of the human building failing to be "for it" is cost. That they are actually built for hundred year storms, as a rule, is pretty impressive, given how figuring out what hundred year storms are was done after a lot of the area was built, and so it was retrofit.

And some of it just stupid. La Cieniga means "The Swamp" and if the flood control allowed more of it to remain wettish-lands, we'd have less flooding issues, and more ground water.

But, having lived here, and the midwest, I'll take our rainy seasons, fires and earthquakes to tornadoes; any day of the week, and twiceo on Sundays.

#75 ::: paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:03 PM:

yes, Terry. I could really do without the fsckig ice. If I could afford to move there, I'd make sure my residence was on high ground, and without any loose hillside waiting above me to slump over my house in case of heavy weather.

that said, we're thoroughly enjoying being able to air the house out mid-winter due to very mild weather. It will pass but we'll enjoy it while it lasts.

#76 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:17 PM:

The first I noticed of the storm (I was off-line too long to see it here) was when I came to Frankfurt and was told that the San Fransisco/San Diego flight I was headed for was cancelled.

Then followed a really annoying sequence of travel snafus, which sent me to Los Angeles with Indian Air (Bollywood inflight entertainment!) and then with a really late, stand by check in to San Diego.

I arrived at my hotel at 2am. After over 30h awake and travelling. And five hours later the congress started.

#77 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Yes, there is snow on the mountains this morning. The San Gabriel Mountains are nicely whitecapped.
(We had a gorgeous sunrise too, as the storm as pretty much blown through. Side-effect, unwanted: the wind is blowing in Chatsworth again.)

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