In late August, Hurricane Harvey brought record rainfall to Houston. In mid-October, the city’s two large federal reservoirs have finally been emptied of the massive amount of water that had filled them up to their brims.
For the vast majority of California, the record-breaking, five-year drought is over, but some cities like Ojai in Ventura County are not so lucky. With its human-made reservoir, Lake Casitas, still at levels not seen in half a century, some locals have been asking, “Can the Ojai Valley run out of water?”
Raw sewage is pouring into the rivers and reservoirs of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. People without running water bathe and wash their clothes in contaminated streams, and some islanders have been drinking water from condemned wells.
Pat Brister sits at a conference table and ponders the subject that preoccupies her professional life: water. Brister, the council president in St. Tammany Parish, a county north of New Orleans, calculates that more than a third of her workday is spent thinking about the quietly lapping waters of Lake Pontchartrain outside her door and the intemperate Gulf of Mexico that feeds it.
In California, firefighting costs have already chewed through more than half of the state’s $469 million emergency fund for big fires just three months in — and that doesn’t include the costs of the recent catastrophic fires that have claimed dozens of lives and thousands of buildings.
Local governments and nonprofits trying to recover from major disasters have sometimes learned the hard way that money spent on protective measures, cleanup and rebuilding is not always reimbursed by the U.S. government.
Thursday’s package, which the Senate could take up when it returns next week, includes money for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s nearly empty Disaster Relief Fund and for the financially-struggling National Flood Insurance Program.
The 2016-2017 water year set records in the northern Sierra Nevada, which recorded a total of 94.7 inches of rain throughout the year. … While wildland vegetation grows every year during the wetter months, the heavy rains led to a larger amount of growth in areas like Santa Rosa and Napa, which hadn’t seen large fires in several years. … This summer was the hottest ever recorded in California, allowing for new vegetation to dry up.
Notorious winds linked to many of California’s worst wildfires are known by various names — Diablo, Santa Ana and Sundowner — but all share the common trait of being able to whip a spark into a deadly inferno that seems to come out of nowhere.
After dealing with the Soberanes Fire last year, torrential winter rainfall led to the massive Mud Creek landslide keeping Highway 1 closed to the south and a separate slide 37 miles north that damaged a support column, which caused the bridge to be condemned and demolished. The newly completed bridge should open to traffic Friday evening.
Now, as a series of deadly fires rages in Wine Country, serious questions are once again being asked about the safety of overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and fierce winds. On Wednesday, Cal Fire said that investigators have started looking into whether toppled power wires and exploding transformers Sunday night may have ignited the simultaneous string of blazes.
In 2015, Albuquerque delivered as much water as it had in 1983, despite its population growing by 70 percent. In 2016, Tucson delivered as much water as it had in 1984, despite a 67 percent increase in customer hook-ups. The trend is the same for Phoenix, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, said longtime water policy researcher Gary Woodard, who rattled off these statistics in a recent phone interview.
Big deadly fires are nothing new to California, particularly during fire season when the Santa Ana or Diablo winds blow hot and dry, making tinder out of trees and bushes that have been baking all summer long. But the firestorm now raging through Northern California isn’t the typical wildfire.
At the root of the problem is the fact that forest fires are not treated like other natural disasters. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can tap emergency funds for hurricane or tornado response, the U.S. Forest Service has to raid its other program budgets – including fire prevention – if it runs out of firefighting funds.
Last winter’s heavy rains were a welcome relief for Central Valley farmers after years of drought. But the high water that came with them also made it clear that we must upgrade the flood control system designed to protect people, farms and cities from catastrophic flooding.
With 17 large wildfires in California igniting in 24 hours this week, October is shaping up to be a brutal month for wildfires, as it often is. It’s too soon to know what caused multiple conflagrations spreading across Northern California’s wine country, but elsewhere in the state dead and dying trees have been the subject of much concern. … Water supplies are also a concern, because the forests are nature’s water-storage sponges.
A cascade of extreme weather events fed Northern California’s wildfires that exploded Sunday: Unusually high winds blew flames through unusually dense and dry vegetation, which sprung up following last winter’s heavy rains and then were toasted by months of record hot temperatures.