The Western View: An El Nino Winter

Taylor HillmanEnvironment, Features, Water, Weather, Western View

Strong storm gathers
It’s finally fall, and it’s late but coming on strong. The first taste of winter didn’t knock politely; it kicked down the door by shutting down two major highways.

Heavy Downpour and Thunder

It’s going to be one of, if not the, biggest El Nino season ever, according to the experts. And those recent mudslides down in Kern County seems to support the notion that it’s going to be one heck of a winter.

John Lindsay, who is a staff meteorologist for PG and E, writes a regular column for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Last week, he reported that he had pulled weather records for the last really big El Nino, 1997-1998, and there are many correlations with this year’s weather, with an extremely warm October, abnormally warm seawater temperatures, and sea life washing up on the beaches that normally are not seen on the California coast – creatures like that poisonous yellow sea snake that came ashore last week.

A climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, by the name of Bill Patzert, told the LA Times that there’s no longer a possibility that El Niño wimps out at this point. According to the article, which ran Monday, it’s too big to fail.

In the 1997-98 El Nino, more than half a billion dollars in damage was reported in California, and 17 people died. There was flooding in many areas of the state. The LA Times article reminds us that two California highway patrol officers died in San Luis Obispo County when their car fell into a massive sinkhole, and devastating mudslides destroyed homes and killed residents in Laguna Beach.

So it looks like whatever happens in the next couple of months is a prelude to the main event. Lindsay, in his Tribune article, pointed out that in 1998, February was the month that roared – a wildly wet and windy month, a deluge of rain, a hundred-year event in some parts of the state. It behooves us to think back to that storm, and get ready for a repeat.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.