By Mary O’KEEFE
Last weekend the skies opened up and rain fell – hard – throughout the Crescenta Valley and Southern California. And whom can one thank for the much-needed rain in the drought-strained state? Dolores.
“[Sunday’s rains were] remnants from a tropical storm system,” said Robert Munroe, meteorologist from the National Weather Service.
Hurricane Dolores formed in the Pacific Ocean on the morning of July 11 and was officially declared a hurricane on July 13. It hit land on a small Mexican volcanic island, Socorro Island, late on July 15. Though the hurricane never traveled across the mainland in either Mexico or California, its effects were felt just the same.
On July 17 it was downgraded to a tropical storm and passed the Baja California coast on Saturday.
Surfers and swimmers saw the effects of the storm early last week with increased waves and riptides.
“[The storm] is blamed for the riptides’ south swell [last week] when it was still a hurricane,” Munroe said. “We saw the peak over the weekend of waves and as of Tuesday it started to calm.”
According to the National Weather Service, the total rainfall in Pasadena, its nearest recording station, was 0.62 inches.
“Every little bit helps,” Munroe said of the weekend rain deposit against the drought debt. “A single rainfall will do minimal [to reverse the drought]; what we want is repeated rainstorms but [even] a little bit can’t hurt.”
Dolores, the tropical storm, caused sudden rainstorms throughout California and the deserts of California and Arizona. The rains caused a flash flood section on a Interstate 10, connecting California to Arizona, to buckle and collapse. Caltrans is continuing its work to repair the damage.
Closer to home, there were accidents on the Foothill (210) Freeway and on local streets. Los Angeles Country Fire Dept. responded to several calls including one in La Cañada Flintridge in the 4200 block of Woodleigh Lane where mud and water flooded a backyard, according to Stephanie English, LACoFD spokeswoman.
Despite the rain and flooded streets, the drought persists; however, there may be some hope on the horizon, as an El Niño grows stronger in the Pacific.
According to the National Weather Service, El Niño is characterized by unusually warm sea surface temperatures. El Niño usually brings rain.
“We are in an El Niño [now] but it is weak, [though] it is trending stronger,” Munroe said.
The prediction, according to Munroe, is a 95% chance that it will continue to grow during the winter. If it does, then California should see the effect with more rain in October and November.
One of the signs of a strong El Niño is frequent and intense hurricanes in the Pacific. It is possible California may see more rain if there is an active hurricane season.
The last strong El Niño was in 1997 and 1998, which was the second warmest and seventh wettest winter since 1895. There were severe weather conditions including flooding throughout California. During that period, precipitation in California was 6.01 inches compared to normal rainfall of 4.05 inches, according to the NWS.