January’s storms: Drought saver or problem causer

Image from Google.

During this past month, California has been hit by a wave of at least nine major storms that have caused massive destruction and tragedy across the state, from potholes and landslides, to crushed houses and even many deaths. But there is a positive impact. While these storms have caused serious damage, they have also significantly helped our state. Atmospheric rivers, which are large concentrations of moisture in the sky, have dropped around 30 trillion gallons of water into our state. California has been in a drought for many years now, and we recently have experienced very little rainfall, but these storms have hopefully changed conditions for the better. 

So, what was the effect of all this rain?

For starters, it has positively affected California’s reservoir levels, with many surpassing their historical average level of water. With this much rain and our reservoir levels rising, we might be looking forward to a bountiful year for California. With such high reservoir levels this year we can expect to see more free use of water for farmers’ crops, and overall less stress on the state’s water supply. 

But, this rain hasn’t been all good news. Dry locations aren’t used to this abnormal amount of rainfall, which has led to many large landslides. These landslides have caused major damage to many neighborhoods and cities throughout California. In Santa Cruz, the beloved Capitola Wharf Pier was severely damaged by these storms. With the arrival of the storms and atmospheric rivers, colossal waves rammed into the pier and tore it to pieces, and washed huge logs onto shore. We also have seen potholes and large chunks of our roads disappear due to the structural instability of the ground, wrecking many cars and homes. And, along with large amounts of rain, we have also seen rapid and heavy winds blowing through cities, toppling trees, telephone lines, and even causing a gas station canopy to collapse in San Francisco. 

So, are these storms better for California, or are they worse? When asked this question, WHS Sophomore Victor Vieux said, “These recent storms are good for California, yes, but they have an overall more negative impact since California is not used to this much rain at once.” Victor goes on to say that California is not built for these major storms, and that it would be better for California to receive more rain spread out through the year. 

Washington Environmental Science teacher Michael Bortz says that it is hard to tell what the effect of these storms will be over time, and that it’s near impossible to tell what their effect was on the drought at the moment. But, all rain is helpful to some extent, though more rain showers spread throughout the year would be the most helpful. He also states that here in California, most of our rainfall directly flows back to the oceans, which is especially true for the Bay Area, so the most helpful thing for droughts would be snowmelt and our underground aquifers. However, our aquifers can take up to hundreds of years to refill or be created. Additionally, Mr. Bortz says that “there hasn’t been a major pattern for storms within the past decade, but the whole world, not just California, has had erratic weather patterns. And that is pretty normal if you were to look back thousands of years you can see the world go through periods of calmer weather, and periods of chaotic weather patterns, and at the moment the entirety of the world is entering one of those chaotic weather periods again.” So perhaps after this chaotic weather period California as a state will have better rain schedules, and our drought may disappear. But with many more months ahead, we will have to wait and see whether more rain will arrive to help with the state’s water issues.

Chase Burgess is a senior who is in his second and final year at Washington High. He was born in the Bay Area but has moved around alot and moved to Oregon for 6 years before finally returning to the Bay. He has been in journalism before in 8th grade and is excited to be back at it. This is his second year at the Hatchet and as an editor he is ready to make sure you receive the best articles. His hobbies outside of school include biking, skating, reading, and doing origami as his creative outlet. He plans to graduate from Washington and then go to college pursuing psychology and journalism. Outside of school he works at a Lego museum in Niles and spends his weekends working and spending time with his family and friends.

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