Record Rain Deluges Campus

El Vaquero Staff Writer

“I moved to California because of the good weather,” said architect James Gann, 26, who lives opposite the college on Verdugo Road. “But this isn’t good weather at all. This rain sucks. We got the whole [Mountain] street blocked off for two days.”

Like the native Missourian, many students lamented this winter over what could become a record rainy season for Southern California.

“Having received approximately 35 inches of rainfall in downtown Los Angeles, this is an incredible amount,” said Darren Leaver, chair of GCC’s geography department.

Thus far, Los Angeles has had rainfall totals exceeding 30 inches only in the years 1884, 1890, 1941, 1977, 1982 and 1997, said Leaver.

In Downtown Los Angeles the average is 16 inches, according to Michael Reed, who teaches Physical Geography 101.

The record for the wettest year was set in the winter of 1883-84 with 38.1 inches. “If we have a very wet March, as some have predicted, we could actually surpass that record year,” said Leaver.

The heavy rain has caused numerous mudslides and traffic jams around GCC, forcing the college to close the campus on Jan. 10 due to what Reed said was a “pretty dramatic” debris flow on Mountain Avenue.

The landslide came off right above the entrance to the teachers’ parking lot. “I was amazed that no one was killed,” said Reed. “Five big trees had covered the entire street.”

Leaver said, “For those of us in the winter session, it was a real disruption and a reminder of what nature can do.”

“If you are a person who has a house that is no longer safe to live in, this season is bad,” said geography instructor Susan Digby.

Nevertheless, Southern California was fortunate to have seen only “mild inconveniences” said Reed. “It slows down our traffic and compared to the population there are very few mansions that slide down.”

“Just before the rains we contracted for roofing repair and most of our roofs were in good shape for the rain. Where we did have leaks we were able to get them fixed [quickly],’ said Vice President Lawrence Serot.
According to him, GCC has now hired a civil engineer to study the canyon and to develop a ‘catch basin’ that will handle future large scale run off from the canyon.

Reed said that Los Angeles has protected itself pretty well. “We have a very sophisticated system of concrete channels,” he said. The Los Angeles River that flows through Glendale and normally looks “like a concrete ditch,” for example, was built to prevent these rather unpredictable floods.

The reason it has rained so much this year is that winter storms that pass through Southern California force moist tropical air from the Pacific into the path of cold air moving in from Alaska, according to Leaver. “When the cold air meets the warm air, it pushes the warm air up into the atmosphere,” he said. According to him, the warm air cools, condenses, and forms raindrops.

The warmer and more moist the air, the more rainfall we can get, he said. According to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center the Pacific’s slightly warmer (about one degree) water than usual this winter can be called a “mild El Niño” condition.

“We sure can’t discount the negative effects, but overall this must be seen as a largely positive rain season,” said Leaver.

“Rain in Los Angeles is highly valuable,” said Reed. “When I came from Rhode Island in 1994, it hadn’t rained for 10 years.” In 1993 people had to lay bricks into their toilettes in order to save water, he said.

Digby said that even after this rain the large reservoirs on the Colorado River are still going to be very low “because it takes more than one wet season to make up for five years of drought.”

“[The rain] was great if you are worried about having enough water in reservoirs,” she said. “It is great for plant and animal life, and desert flowers. And it’s great because pollutants are washed from the air so we breathe much cleaner air.”

There will be a lot more growth of vegetation, “but also more fires in the late summer, because more vegetation equals more fuel for fires,” Reed cautioned.

The geographer also suggested that this rain could be one of the signs of global warming. “Global warming will not mean that it will get warmer, but more extreme weather and more hurricanes, more floods like this, more wild fires,” Reed said.

Reed was critical of President Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Accord on global warning. “All other nations, except the U.S. and Australia, agreed to stop global warming,” said Reed. “And the scary thing is that no one has really any idea what will come,” he said.

For next-day weather predictions however one can always look at the Pacific Ocean, because all the storms are coming from the west, he said.
Digby said weather forecasters are predicting more rain this next month. “So, if you have windshield wipers that are not working well, or tires that have almost no tread, now is a good time to replace them!”
“I’d like to remind students to enjoy [the rain] when we have it,” said Leaver. “It will be gone soon enough and they’ll probably miss it come September. [Also], they can snowboard into July this year!”

“I hope it will stop soon so we get back to the sunshine, we all moved here for,” said Reed.