The Fall Equinox on Sept. 23 is only a couple weeks away, signaling the end of summer. In California, the transition from fire season to rainy season can sometimes occur within a week’s time.
Weather predictions suggest a strong El Niño weather pattern this year, which usually brings higher-than-average rainfall, strong winds and big surf. I love exciting weather, and as a marine biologist I enjoy marveling at the warm water species we see this far north when ocean temperatures rise. It’s been a long time since we had a strong El Niño cycle. The last one I remember was 1997-98. That was nearly 20 years ago!
We got a taste of what winter may bring this past July, when a thunder and lightning show more impressive than any Independence Day celebration dumped 1½ inches of rain on Cambria.
Rough and wet winters can also lead to health and safety hazards. Longtime residents remember when a combination of heavy rainfall and high tide overwhelmed Santa Rosa Creek and flooded the West Village of Cambria — twice. This led to construction of a pumping station on the north end of Main Street and a bypass overflow area on Highway 1.
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Part of Cambria’s charm is that we live in a remote, hard-to-reach area. Strong winds and tall trees usually result in power outages, some of which have lasted more than a week. Last year, at our house we got through a whole winter without a loss of power — a first! Thanks to the legions of power company employees who work so hard to keep the lights on.
Predictions for this winter give us good reason to plan ahead for power outages. At home we recently rounded up the flashlights, checked the batteries and placed them at stations throughout the house so we would know where to find them, even in the dark. Our gas stove has an electric starter that doesn’t work when the power goes out, but we can always light the gas with a match, ensuring hot tea and water bottles to keep us warm. A barbecue can function as an outdoor stove, as long as there’s plenty of propane or dry charcoal on hand. Dining by candlelight is always romantic — even more so when a storm rages outside.
Roofers all over California are reporting an uptick in business. Clearing rain gutters helps water flow properly off the roof. Collection buckets under the gutters will collect rainwater for backyard watering later on, or gutters can be connected to outdoor water storage tanks. Cambria’s twisty-turny streets often lead to flooding in heavy rainstorms, so it never hurts to have some sandbags at the ready.
Garrison Keillor popularized the old Scandinavian saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Now’s the time to see if the rubber boots and raincoats still fit, and dig up the umbrellas from the back of the closet.
The promise of abundant rainfall is compelling. When those El Niño rains come, I intend to go out and splash in some puddles. There’s nothing bad about getting wet, especially when you’re prepared.