Sunday, March 3, 2024

A Chilling Tale in the Sierras--a Blast from the Past

 By Cal Orey

Back in January 2019, I reported weather happenings would resemble scenes out of the film “The Day After Tomorrow,” and we’d see more erratic events in the New Year. I warned it is the time to be ready for unusual Earth events. That meant wacky winter snowstorms in warm regions…

So, on February 12, Maui, Hawaii was pummeled with snow and 191 m.p.h. wind. But it didn't play out the way some folks, including me, predicted it would. No way.
At the end of January, a deep freeze aka polar vortex with below zero temperatures hit regions, including Iowa, Chicago---27 degrees.
 Not to forget the Sierra Nevada, specifically Mammoth Lakes celebrated 11 feet of snow.  And these sobering incidents are just a few of the countless super chilling (pun intended) happenings like watching a thriller film on T.V. called “Wicked Weather.”

California Dreaming, Sort of
This wintertime the classic tune lyrics, “It Never Rains in Southern California” are playing in my mind and I’m chuckling, sort of. The thing is, most of our sunny state is getting rain and snow. The new word is, we are officially drought-free. But with all this precipitation comes challenges.
Some of my January 2019 weather forecasts are coming true. Some not. I agreed with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts that weather will be warmer in the majority of the United States. And it isn’t that cold thanks to Pineapple Express aka heavy rain, snow, wind and flooding on the West Coast—bringing us to California.
On February 15, a CNN headline read: “Strong Storm drenches California, unleashing mudslides and flooding”—and, of course, there is our snow, snow, snow…

Sierra Nevada: I predicted a repeat drought in our Golden State is likely (despite one or two major snowstorms in the northern state with power outages). Well, dump the drought. We are nearing 150 percent above normal precipitation and it’s not even Spring.
No, it isn’t sub-zero temperatures where the pipes break at Lake Tahoe (which I have experienced). But avalanche warnings and some power outages have happened. In February mid-month we got rain and wet snow aka slain or slush but it turned to snow. Road closures were more than less leading to gridlock and car spin outs or "slides" from tourists and locals. 

San Francisco Bay Area:  But note, while our state needed water the adage, "Be careful for what you wish for" makes sense. Flood warnings and flash floods are beginning. I forecasted coastal chunks of cliffs (like at Big Sur) will erode and fall into the sea. That may happen with coastal flooding--but currently very destructive mudslides are found in Napa and Sausalito affecting homes and terrain. But the year is young.

Southern State: I did note mudslides. Sure enough, these are happening in many regions of Southern California, due to the rain. Worse, the flooding and mudslides following debris from our past Western wildfires are causing loss of homes and people being displaced.
Think of a lava cake, saturated ground. Worse, some scientists believe heavy rainfall and snowfall can be linked to causing earthquakes. And Californians know too well we are overdue for the Big One which could rumble our state in Southern, Northern, or the San Francisco region.
Blame it on the Pineapple Express

So, the Pacific Northwest (including Washington and western Canada) is getting snow, too, which is rare. The words Pineapple Express are to blame. Simply put, this is a surreal thing --heavy flow of atmospheric moisture and precipitation from Hawaii moving through the Pacific Ocean that creates warm storms. While the back to back storms are welcomed in California, the snow and rain do come with a price.

It Hit Home and the Epic Snow was Not Pretty

Welcome to Stephen King's "The Shining" sequel. No kidding. Personally, I can attest some challenges. I have postponed three out of town trips due to road closures, dangerous driving conditions which includes rainfall and black ice to blizzards, 5 feet berms (like a wall of snow) in my neighborhood, and whiteouts. Sure. Living in the Sierra Nevada is known for its natural beauty and unpredictable weather...  
But, but, but we have about 21,000 residents. During this epic snowfall, tourists invaded our town. We were not ready for it. 
Worse, authorities pleaded folks to not come because the roads were closed, over-crowded, not snow plowed, and inadequate causing mega gridlock. And locals couldn't leave their homes to go to work, tourists tried to take back roads to get out. Chaos and disruption. Can you imagine if a firestorm or major earthquake happened? No way out! [It did happen. The Caldor Fire followed a few years later. Mandatory evacuation. But since I predict these things, left town a week prior.]
The inconvenient truth is, this year it seems with global warming and global cooling or climate change, you never know exactly what you’re going to get, with respect to Forrest Gump’s words. One more thing.  Sometimes, when too much of a good thing happens,  it tests humanity. And novelty can bring out the best or worst in mankind.

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