This morning we woke up to rain again. For the past five years Californians have been living with drought, but now we have gone from that to extreme rain. You would think that it is great to have all that water we have been craving for years, but it has been a struggle to restore and use all of it, or even to maintain normal life during the storms.
I'm sure some of you have seen the news about the problems at Oroville Dam. The emergency spillway of the Oroville Reservoir was damaged during the rainy conditions this winter, and the fear was that the areas close by will be subject to extreme flooding. Nearly 200.000 people were evacuated from their homes, and all the schools and businesses were closed. When the storm started calming down, the water level lowered in the reservoir, but now they worry that the dam will not survive another winter like this.
We do not live close to Oroville, so we mostly just followed the situation on the news. The rains have affected people's daily routines though. On rainy days the traffic is chaos, flights get delayed or cancelled, roads get closed due to mud slides or fallen trees, and electricity has been out in several areas in California. There are a few places where part of the road has collapsed completely, just vanished. The soil has become saturated and no longer able to absorb all the water, and the drainage system has not been built for these kind of conditions.
During one weekend I was following how the local ranchers were trying to save their horses from the floods. They had been pasturing on top of a hill, but the water level had risen all the way up to their stomachs. The ranchers were not able to walk them out from the pasture because under the hill the water level was even higher, and the water had covered all kinds of things stored in the yard. Luckily the rescue project ended well. After a couple of days, the water level lowered a bit and the horses were able to walk out of the flooded area. There has been many floods very close to us too. Cities have been giving out sacks of sand and cleaning drainages in order to avoid the worst. A few weeks ago, we were collecting donations for my former colleague, who lost her whole house and furniture in the flooding.
For the skiers, this winter has been great. The California mountains have more snow than in years. It has been estimated that there is over three times more snow than normally in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When the snow melts, it typically fills up the reservoirs, which this year are already full. That is where we get our drinking water. In recent years we have had to save water, but this year they will most likely have to let some water flow to the ocean. The past couple of years we have had to limit watering of the lawns. We were encouraged to take shorter showers and turn off the tap while brushing our teeth. Washing machines should only be used when they are full. It will be interesting to see if we are officially done with the drought now, or if these limitations will still be in effect.
The last couple of weeks we have started to see the sun more and more, and the weather forecast for the next week looks like true spring weather. Maybe we are out of the worst now. So if you are planning a trip to California, good news! The sun is out! But this winter we have used our rubber boots more than ever before.