Weather in the Foothills

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied;
it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.”
~ Ansel Adams
Inch by inch, the rain totals have gradually accumulated over the course of the 2015-16 rain season. But at the same time, one could certainly say, “When it rains, it pours.”

Seemingly within a few hours time, the storms pack up their lingering clouds and clear the foothills. In spite of a promised drencher, last Sunday’s storm fell into the same such pattern. When all was said and done, the rain gauge measured an additional 1.10 inches of rain; the season total has now reached 11.73 inches. Inch by inch …

I had to chuckle; after the recent storm, I read the following – “Storm pounds Southland” – L.A. Times (not the Manila Gazette or Mumbai News!).

In all seriousness, the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains can be a real target for torrential rainstorms. Mike Lawler, our local historian and CVW columnist, will agree as he has a story to tell of such an event. It’s not just pure happenstance; periodic flood waters have swept through the canyons out into the land below. Our local geography is the primary culprit. Can’t blame the weather alone for this one!

In case you haven’t noticed recently, a good sized mountain range looms along the north border of the Crescenta Valley – the San Gabriels. Its highest peak, Mount San Antonio (Mt. Baldy), reaches an impressive elevation of 10,069 feet. On a side note, John Muir wrote of them, “Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage.” These topographical characteristics allow for cool moist air off the Pacific Ocean to become trapped against the mountains’ southern slope. The air mass, with no alternative, must rise; the scientific term is Orographic Lift. Rain producing clouds form and, with no place to go, they drench the foothills. Rainfall totals are often double to those of lower elevations in Southern California.

I began with the rains but, as with the wind, I must change my direction. As high pressure moves across the region accompanied by an offshore flow, our weather will shift gears into a different but not unfamiliar pattern. Those same mountains capable of enhancing precipitation will now usher advisory level Santa Ana winds through their canyon passes to finish off the week. A significant warm up – well into the 80s – is expected through the weekend and continuing into next week.

El Niño remains strong. Historically its rains come in February and March, so enjoy the sunshine for now.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at