So far, El Niño has not disappointed.
In the past few weeks, we’ve enjoyed multiple storms here in Northern California. None severe enough to cause widespread flooding. Many coming overnight, as if to spare rush-hour drivers and keep fender benders to a minimum. And most occurring on alternate days, giving the ground an opportunity to dry out before the next storm pays a visit. With storms from El Niño forecast to continue through at least March (96%) and possibly May (62%), we may still see flooding and/or mudslides (as some areas in southern California have). But everyone seems willing to take the chance.
A good deal of the rain has made its way to our depleted reservoirs, raising levels for the first time in years. And the precipitation falling in the Sierras has brought a more significant snowpack than we’ve seen since the drought began five years ago. Tests indicate that the snowpack ranges from 110% to nearly 150% of normal. In fact, so much snow has accumulated that some areas in the Sierra have even posted avalanche warnings. Mountain snow (the deeper the better) keeps streams and rivers flowing once the winter storm season end. Replenishes ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. Irrigates crops and trees.
We still haven’t recovered completely from the severe drought that has afflicted the state and caused major damage to agriculture, wildlife, many communities, and (perhaps hardest hit) the state’s trees. As many as 12 millions trees have died during the drought and nearly a billion more remain under severe stress. It will take several more years of above-average precipitation for reservoir and, more importantly, groundwater levels to return to normal.
But the storms from this El Niño have brought hope to California, the Pacific Northwest, and such other western states as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, as well. And for that we can all be grateful.