It was a big Al Nino year.
The 1997-98 rainfall year was San Luis Obispo's ninth wettest in 128 years of recordkeeping, with 36.51 inches of rain.
Alfonso Nino, 73, of Nipomo got a lot of phone calls that El Niño year.
One was from a Tulare radio station asking him to give a weather report.
The retired U.S. Navy submarine crewman replied in a Feb. 19, 1998, Telegram-Tribune interview, “I'm a submarine guy. We're always under water, so we could care less about the weather.”
Alfonso Nino was even invited to be a guest Feb. 20, 1998, on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Several regions surpassed San Luis Obispo for rainfall.
Santa Barbara had the wettest season on record. Cambria and Oceano recorded more rainfall than in the previous disastrous 1994-95 year.
El Niño would take a serious turn a few days later when the Cuyama River was transformed into a deadly torrent, washing out Highway 166. Three men were killed, including two California Highway Patrol officers responding to the emergency.
On Feb. 13, 1998, Telegram-Tribune reporter Matt Lazier wrote about a man who could not control the weather.
Al Nino sailed seas, but never wrecked the coast
NIPOMO — His name may sound similar, but Al Nino has nothing to do with the onslaught of wet and windy El Niño weather that has hit the area recently.
All the same, some local residents are pinning the blame on him.
The 74-year-old Nipomo man, whose full first name is Alfonso, said he has received six or seven phone calls from anonymous callers complaining about the wet weather. Nino takes it with good humor, though.
“I had one call just yesterday, " he said. "The guy asked me if El Niño was coming and I said yes. Then, he told me he was from Cayucos, so I said I'd make sure it steers clear of there.”
Not all of the calls have been as nicely timed, however. Likewise, Nino has not always reacted with such good grace.
“I got one a while ago that really made me mad, “ Nino said.
“It was 2 a.m. and I wasn't asleep, but I was reading. The girl on the phone sounded like she had had a few to drink. I was just mad because I was right in the middle of a book.”
When the caller muttered a profanity at Nino during the call, he returned the favor, then hung up.
Nino has lived in Nipomo with his family for 10 years. Born in Los Angeles, he served 33 years in the Navy, including three wars, and traveled around the world.
He moved to the Central Coast after he purchased property from a former shipmate. When the prank calls first began coming, Nino suspected the jokers were shipmates he had sailed with in the Navy.
"I'd get these calls and I would say 'Dan, is that you?' or 'Smitty, is that you?'" he said.
"But, of course, it wasn't them."
With all the El Niño-motivated chaos currently under way, Nino has received his share of the spotlight, not only from prank callers, but also from media outlets. However, the former Navy sailor takes the attention in stride.
"Submarine shipmen like me like to have our moment in the sun, " he said.
"Last time El Niño came through, my oldest brother, Harvey, got all the phone calls. This time, he hasn't gotten any."