It’s been over six months since the Central Coast has seen a significant amount of rain.
The last time was April 19 when the rain gauge at Diablo Canyon Power Plant recorded 0.18 of an inch. Since late May, we’ve only had a few periods of drizzle and a few sprinkles here and there from the North American Monsoon.
The effects of this dry period can be seen throughout the Central Coast as our rolling hills continue to turn from hues of golden brown to shades of gray as vegetation continues to dry, resulting in elevated fire danger. Our roads and highways have accumulated oil and our power lines dirt over the summer without the rains to wash them.
Not only can you see the results, but you can also smell it.
If you have visited beaches where offshore rock or island monuments provide refuge for marine mammals and birds, you know the smell of guano has increased. Lion Rock is a relatively large island that rises about 100 feet above sea level near Diablo Canyon Power Plant. It is home to hundreds of California Sea Lions and numerous cormorants and pelicans that flourish there. The pungent smell from this island has gotten worse.
With that said, a shift toward wet and unsettled weather is expected this upcoming week as a 1,001 millbar low-pressure system and associated warm and cold fronts tap into subtropical moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Rosa and moves into the region. Details are still evolving, but it appears that rain showers will start Tuesday and continue through Wednesday and perhaps even into Thursday throughout San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
These first rains of the fall will increase the risk of power outages due to the dust and other particles that have accumulated on powerlines and equipment that can transform into mud and conduct electricity. That can cause damage to electrical components and lead to localized outages. PG&E cleans equipment in advance of rain where possible, but you should be prepared for local outages when rain is forecast.
PG&E’s meteorology team has developed a Storm Outage Prediction Model (SOPP) that incorporates real-time weather forecasts, historical data and system knowledge to accurately show where and when storm impacts will be most severe. This model enables the company to pre-stage crews and equipment as storms approach to facilitate rapid response to outages.
PG&E has extra crews and resources on alert and ready to respond if outages do occur. We routinely practice emergency preparedness and storm response through company exercises and drills with local first responders. We are prepared for these potential outages, and we want you to be ready as well. Keep your cell phone charged. Have flashlights, radios and fresh batteries available and know where to go for updates on storm conditions and power outages.
For more information, please visit pge.com
Not only can the first rains create power outages, but extremely slick roads.
Even though he has retired and moved on from his previous career as a CHP officer, PG&E employee Greg Williams is still concerned about traffic safety.
“The first rain of the season has always resulted in challenges for unprepared drivers,” he said. “When the rain falls, the oils and foreign substances on the pavement can cause unexpected loss of traction. We always saw a significant rise in collisions, particularly rear-end collisions during the first rains of the season.
“Please take some time before the rain comes to check your tread depth and tire pressure. A couple of minutes to ensure the dry summer heat has not compromised your wiper blades will save you from having to try to see clearly through a streaked windshield. Please slow down and increase your following distance to allow time to react to other driver’s actions, and don’t forget California law requires you to have your headlights on anytime the windshield wipers are operating continuously.”
The first rains can also produce a marked increase in water pollution.
“Most people are surprised to learn that contaminated stormwater is a leading cause of water pollution in California,” Ann Gillespie, the Stormwater Program Coordinator with San Luis Obispo County, wrote me to say. “The good news is there are steps you can take to ensure our waterways stay clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.”
The county recommends following 10 habits to prevent stormwater pollution:
▪ Never pour liquid waste in the storm drains gutters or ditches.
▪ Maintain the motor in your vehicle as fluid that leaks onto roads and driveways washes into creeks and rivers during storms.
▪ Direct rain gutter downspouts away from driveways and sidewalks, but rather into your garden.
▪ Avoid overfilling waste bins and keep lids close and get involved in your community such as beach cleanup day.
To lean the other healthy habits, please visit slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/Public-Works/Our-Divisions/Stormwater.aspx