Weathering a Wild Winter
Some of my January 2014 weather forecasts are coming true. I predicted climate chaos including extreme cold winter temperatures in United States. The Northeast, as noted, is enduring heavy snow as other non-snow regions are rudely being awakened by odd ice and snowstorms. During mid-February storms, there was news of “thundersnow” (a thunderstorm that creates snow instead of rain), but I left out the extreme drought in the West and didn’t pinpoint the South getting slammed by historical weather-related events—the worst storm in years. So as U.S. is on a wild ride of catastrophic weather, how wild is it and how will it affect our food basket in the future?
West Coast Drought
For the past three years, California has been experiencing lack of precipitation also called an “extreme” drought and that spells lack of water for farmers’ crops and food for the nation. (Eleven Western states have declared disaster areas due to the dry spell.) Farmers are worried; and the Sierra Nevada region is not like it used to be.
As I live at Lake Tahoe, a well-known ski resort town, I’ve noticed how snow at lake level is something that seems nondescript and we are making man-made snow more than before as well as dealing with wet powder. Tourists are not as frequent as they were years ago when I moved here in 1999.
In February right before and during the Westminster Dog Show, we got rain and wet snow on the West Coast but it melted fast. No berms to see on the neighborhood streets or main highway 50. Merchants are getting less business from tourists because of less snow. And this month of February and last month, Spring Fever has hit. That means wearing T-shirts and jeans, raking pine needles, swimming at the resort pools, and walking the dogs on dry ground (no black ice) is part of our off winter season. But there may be hope.
I Wish It Would Rain (Another Forecast)
On October 19 and January 24 via my blog I forecasted and envisioned that we would have a significant storm on the West Coast late January and February. Right on cue during the dog show in New York the storm came to the West Coast. Meteorologists, locals, and snow-loving folks waited for the snow count in the Sierra. It was only the second storm this winter season. On the upside, it rained a lot—day and night--with flood advisories. Streets were ponding. It was like a storm in late November or April at Lake Tahoe. This is abnormal. Blame it on the Pineapple Express (a heavy flow of atmospheric moisture and precipitation from Hawaii moving through the Pacific Ocean that creates warm storms).
The reports from the National Weather Service in Reno, noted we got as much as 2 to 3 feet of snow between 7,000 feet and 8,000 feet, while lake level areas received up to 6 inches — and rain (up to 3 inches that created ponding on streets and flood advisories). I felt like I was living in Northern California such as San Francisco.
While the storm was welcomed in California, it’s not nearly enough precipitation to save this dry winter and its effects. After the storm, I forecasted the West Coast, including the Pacific Northwest and California, may get up to five more storms in February and March (thanks to Pisces)—a “Miracle March” (a month when heavy snow has hit in the past) and that would help California, agree weather gurus. But at this time all we can do is pray for rain and snow as we wait for Mother Nature to pan out. And that’s not all.
Dust Bowl and the Breadbasket
With the 21st century Western states drought, images of the 1930’s John Steinbeck’s novel Grapes of Wrath come to mind but ironically California is part of dry ground in the 21st century—not the land of milk and honey. The fact is, a large percentage of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and even honey come from central California. The odds that you’ll be paying more for these products is a good bet,. The price of maintaining crops due to the water shortage will affect the costs of food in the future.
An agriculture consultant in the San Joaquin Valley, California told me 2014 is the worst honey season in history in California. He explained, “With minimal water, there is minimal (or no) nectar in flowers, Crop yields suffer similarly.”Because honey bees pollinate our fruits, vegetables, and nuts prices will go up for these foods. The drought may also affect the price of organic beef, milk, and cheese.
Food prices not only will go up in California and the U.S. but throughout the world. Our Golden State is the “breadbasket” of America but we also export produce around the globe. If you haven’t seen the sci-fi film Soylent Green showing a time of depleted resources--it’s time. Meanwhile, the jury is still out until later this year for food experts and farmers to tally up and tell us how much the drought is going to take a toll on our pocketbooks because of not enough water. Meanwhile, let's forget that tune “It Never Rains in Southern California” because it’s the time to sing “I Wish It Would Rain”.
2014 Epic Snowstorms Deep South, Northeast
I was spot-on with my Northeast weather forecast, but a miss with the southern states. A rare ice storm hit Atlanta, Georgia during the end of January. Images of countless cars stuck in gridlock were seen on TV and experienced by Southerners for hours. The off winter weather (that our West Coast ski resorts are used to and miss) caught the Deep South off guard. The storm left motorists stranded, some left their vehicles on the roads.
A second Georgia storm made the news mid-February and more headlines like “Ice storm causes deaths, power outages, and traffic jams in the South” hit the news. The storm put emergency response agencies in preparedness mode. But this time around, This time southerners stayed home and off the roads so the dire consequences were likely less than more. Still, reports rolling in stated more than 200,000 power outages in Georgia.
Yet, the Valentine’s Day Eve storm headed northbound. News headlines such “Storm Is Biggest Winter Blast to Hit the Northeast” and “Nor’easter to Hammer DC, Philly, NYC and Boston” spread in newspapers and on TV. The snowstorm slammed the Carolinas (at least 300,000 people without power), leaving thousands coping with dangerous icy roads, countless delayed near 10,000 flights, fallen trees and power lines as well as one million without power. One third of Americans were affected as the storm headed up the East Coast. In result, the teeter-totter weather—epic snow in the South and North and a drought in the West is mega news that won’t be forgotten.
Excerpts from article by Cal Orey in March issue Oracle 20/20 Magazine