Drought Busted?


After all these years of drought, it’s strange to hear the dire forecasts of the last week – the words ‘atmospheric river’ create a powerful mental image of a flood of rain flowing up from the south Pacific. It’s a so much better of a phrase than ‘Pineapple Express’, which sounds to me like a train owned and operated by the Del Monte corporation.

As the rains have fallen, I see some familiar benchmarks. Things like, at a half-inch of rain, the low spot in the back pasture fills; at 3/4 of an inch, a rivulet of water follows the low ground down the driveway. There are things I’d forgotten about, during the drought. For instance, at an inch of rain, the front gate stays open, as you can’t get to it without getting muddy or wet. And that bad low spot in the driveway? Best not try to cross it with a town car, better drive the truck or an SUV. These are things we’d forgotten about during the drought. We’re happy to fix them, but we got to wait till things dry out a little.

Then there are those familiar places around the valley – like the mobile home park by Woodward, off of highway 41 in Fresno. It’s on the flood plain of the San Joaquin river, and when they have to release a lot of water from Millerton, well gee whiz, it floods. The roads and driveways there get a little wet and the TV news come to film the event. It’s stressful, but if we’d build Temperance Flat dam it won’t happen so much.

And, lots of road closures are going on. Many of these things are Deja Vu all over again. We’ve had wet years in the past, and something like 20 years ago we had another atmospheric river bring us lots and lots of water. Some closures were the same – but this year, we are having a bigger problem. The news reporters keep telling us that recent fire areas are particularly vulnerable. We’re seeing more mudslides and rivers full of mud from running off recently burned land – a problem we’ve made worse by stopping the grazing of cattle in the high country.

As the rains fall and promises to bring our drought to an end, I’m feeling hopeful that we will learn from the lessons of the past. But right now, I’m just glad for the rain.

Previously published on The Western View by AgNet West.

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