Ding, Dong, the Drought is Dead!

October 13, 2016
Mountain Snow

On March 30, the Jerry Brown, the new governor of California, announced that the state’s three-year “drought emergency” is officially over. It may be the first good news that the state has heard in years!

However, many of the state’s Munchkins aren’t dancing in celebration. They are buried up to their noses in snow. Parts of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains go as much as 600 inches (50 feet/20 meters) of snow this winter.

Since the snowpack is a crucial source of the state’s water, this is great news, just not for the folk who live the mountains.

What makes the snow so surprising is that normally California is warm and dry when the Pacific Ocean is experiencing a La Niña in the tropics. Instead the state had a “Pineapple Express” in December and a “Miracle March”.

December’s Pineapple Express was explosive. A lost tropical disturbance wandered all the way over from the West Pacific and slammed into California. For over a week the state was hit by record-breaking storm after storm. Hillsides were hit with between 12 – 24 inches of rain, with one mountain reporting 17 feet of snow. From California, through Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, regions reported up to 800% of their normal precipitation in that period.

La Niña settled in. January and the first half of February were dry. State officials worried. Then mid-February arrived and sunny California turned cold and wet.

It was cold and miserable, but for the parched state it was a “Miracle March”. Storm after storm swept through, raining on the valleys and snowing in the high mountains. Even the first day of spring saw a major storm that forced the shutdown of major highways and left thousands without electricity.

Of course, this is California.  Thousands of runners in the Los Angeles Marathon scampered through pouring rain and lightning strikes. The winner, Markos Geneti, made good time but about 100 runners had to be treated for hypothermia.

You’ve read the good news for California – here’s the great news for the rest of America. The state still stresses conservation but it is lifting water rationing to the state’s farmers. Hundreds of communities and many farms that provide fruits and vegetables to the nation will have enough water for their crops.

And the California Tourist Board would like to suggest – after you enjoy your cheaper fruits and vegetables, why don’t you come over for a late springtime or early summer ski trip. They have plenty of snow!

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.