Weather in the Foothills

“The rain began again. It fell heavily, easily, with no meaning or intention but the fulfillment of its own nature, which was to fall and fall.”       

~Helen Garner, contemporary Australian novelist


Not even an “atmospheric river” could keep away Elton John fans from The Forum last Saturday night to hear his iconic “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour. This was Elton’s last planned performance at The Forum on his road to retirement.

Thousands of fans huddled patiently outside the arena in the sporadic rain showers. All the while umbrellas were being flipped inside out by intermittent gusts of wind. The blustery weather was incapable of dampening the spirits of those eager to see one last show of a career that spans 50 years. Once inside, all thoughts of the outside world disappeared – almost. Elton took only one short break during which stormy light and sound effects echoed the wild weather outside. A short three hours later “when the rain set in” we returned home to the Emerald City (i.e. Crescenta Valley).

What is an atmospheric river? TV meteorologists of recent years have taken to sharing some lingo of their scientific field of study, one of those being atmospheric river. The term is used to describe a relatively narrow region in the atmosphere that transports water vapor (water in the form of gas) outside of the tropics northward and eastward. Atmospheric rivers are typically a few thousand miles long and a hundred miles wide. One common atmospheric river (AR), with which we are most familiar, is the “Pineapple Express;” that directly transports water vapor from the Hawaiian Islands to California’s west coast.

When winter storms coming down from the north meet up with an AR, rainfall totals skyrocket and the snowpack over the Sierra deepens. Yes, flooding, mud slides and avalanches may result, but the trade-off from AR-enhanced precipitation is a replenished water supply.

The 2018-19 rainfall total stands at a pool-overflowing 20.04 inches. The several storms over the past week delivered a drenching 7.03 inches of rain. Alas, on Tuesday the skies began to clear allowing rays to touch us Vitamin D-deprived sun worshippers. Soak it in fast as more rain is on the way. Another storm system brings a chance of rain tomorrow and into the weekend. Looking ahead, Valentine’s Day may be a rainy one.

A bit of weather trivia: The name Pineapple Express was the term used by sailors to describe the fast winds that propel the ships from Hawaii to the West Coast as they were often carrying pineapples from the islands.


Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley resident and  Official Skywarn Spotter for the  National Weather Service. Reach her at