“I think we are bound to, and by, nature. We may want to deny this connection and try to believe we control the external world, but every time there’s a snowstorm or drought, we know our fate is tied to the world around us.
~ Alice Hoffman, American novelist
It seemed Christmas passed as quickly as it arrived. With our tree at the curb and decorations back in the attic, we headed up the coast on New Year’s Day. Other than bare trees and the calendar, little evidence of winter is here or there. Northwest of Santa Barbara, Lake Cachuma’s water level is remarkably low. The rolling hills of the coastal range are a dry and dusty brown with sparse vegetation. Usually by this time of year, the rainfall has nourished the native grasses, carpeting the coastline in vibrant green.
Driving up Highway 1, I realized the cute ad slogan “California Cows are Happy Cows” did not apply to winter 2013-14. Ranchers I’m certain would agree. The dry conditions are cutting the “carrying capacity” of pastures and rangeland prompting them to thin their herds. Without adequate rainfall, natural forage (grasses) production drops, leaving grazing animals dependent on imported alfalfa hay supplied by the ranchers. Water troughs and feeding stations now dot the hills and pastures as ranch trucks and cattle frequent them. Livestock producers raising beef cattle and milk cows are suffering major financial losses. Also the health of the animals is a concern. To reduce the need for food, many dairy cows are being sold and slaughtered for beef. The entire livestock community (man and beast) has been turned upside down due to water – simple source, complex problem.
As the Northeast was paralyzed by a snowstorm one day into the new year, the Southwest basked under sunny skies and red flag warnings. Local rainfall totals (according to my gauge) stand at 1.81 inches for the season. Our average by January is around 10 inches. According to the National Weather Service, records are similar statewide and the snowpack is 20% of normal. The jet stream that drives storms across California remains in the Pacific Northwest, thus allowing a system of high pressure to remain stationary over our region. For now, not much change is expected.
A few clouds and cool temperatures will quickly be replaced by clear skies and a 10-15 degree warm up on Friday. Saturday cool again, but by Sunday night Santa Ana’s return. Warm breezy days are predicted into next week with highs in the 80s. Without much choice in the matter, we may as well enjoy the weather.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.