After years of little more than an occasional storm, we had quite a series of storms, and they were big ones. The Sacramento River is mighty once again!
The view is from Old River Road, which is usually high above the water level. So are those houses. Now they are really riverfront properties in a perhaps overly literal way.
The river does not flood its banks, however, due to a remarkable piece of 1916 engineering called the Sacramento Weir and its manually operated gates. Last week was the first time this had been opened in over a decade.
(short video; click to open in a new window and play)
That is Old River Road running over the Weir, and parallel to it, the Sierra Northern Railway.
When the river reaches a certain level, the gates of the Weir are open and the overflow spills into the vast tract of low land known as the Yolo Bypass.
The levees around the river and the bypass protect not only houses, but farmland. For instance, this recently planted nut grove (walnuts, probably) that is directly across Levee Road from the bypass.
Below is a photo of the Sacramento River looking upstream. Those trees are growing on the steep bank of the normally dry levee.
The Sierra Northern crosses another section of the bypass that is fed by a weir farther upstream. Here it is on a trestle that is normally high above the wetlands. A road runs through there, but at ground level, which is, for now, now well below water level. (View from the I-5 causeway.)
It’s been a mostly cloudy day. But really, only here. Most of the Central Valley and northern California region has actually been clear. This narrow cloud band has been parked over our area almost all day.
(Screen shot from NWS satellite image)
Here is what it looks like from ground level.
With the help of the satellite image, I can now be certain that the straight line direction down the middle of this cloud band is looking more or less right at Marin County. At the tiome that I took the photo (around noon), the band was crossing the shore just between Point Reyes and the Golden Gate. It has been slowly creeping southward, but very slowly. We are now (almost 3:00 p.m.) just under the band’s northern edge, and a re-check of the satellite imagery shows it is crossing the shore directly over the Golden Gate–and also even narrower.
Underneath it here, the temperature has been in the lower/mid 80s, a welcome relief from the 100+ temperatures we had earlier in the week. The fruit trees are certainly a lot less stressed today.
We have been at our current location for about twenty months. There has not exactly been a lot of rain during that time. Till yesterday. It rained from early in the morning till late at night, sometimes heavily, amounting to around three and a half inches. It brought our total to the month to 5.7, whereas from 1 July to 31 October we had had only 2.3. And the 6-10 day outlook says more is probably on the way!
So we finally see how well the property drains, or to what extent we get standing water. Early returns are favorable. It drains just fine, and there is no water standing in the one completely flat area where I put in some fruit trees.
Apple trees, among others; the branches on the ground were put there by me. I pruned them the day before to reduce the “sail” effect, given forecast very high winds (which were less than feared).
There is not even the slightest water standing at the bottom of the big hole where a former owner attempted to put in a pond. Now we see why he had no luck!
View towards the north
There is just a little bit of standing water in our pasture, visible beyond the Eucalyptus near the center of the image. Just over the fence, however, the neighbor has quite a nice little lake. When I was out there earlier, I could hear geese honking nearby. And I’ve heard some frogs. They should be quite happy today.
View towards the west/northwest
I don’t know when it last snowed at this elevation (1500 ft) in San Diego County, but it would have to have been many years.
It’s pretty, but not really the best thing for citrus and avocado trees. Or stone-fruit trees that are already in bloom. (That’s the Mesch Mesch Amrah plumcot in between the mandarin and the avos.)
Here it is as it was falling last night, around 9:30 p.m.:
Many more photos at the Flickr site.
The forecast says the snow level will drop to as low as 2000 feet Saturday evening, locally 1000. We are at 1500.
It has been a really cold week, by local standards, especially for late February.
Too bad all this chill is basically useless for the deciduous fruit trees, coming this late. We surpassed 500 chill hours earlier this month. However, we really won’t get more useful chill, as almost everything is leafing out or blooming by now. And getting snow, or freezing temperatures on the buds and blooms is not a good thing.
But some snow would certainly be interesting…
Thursday, early in the morning, one of the most incredible storms this region has seen finally moved out. We had 6.25 inches in just over six days, 2.76 of which fell on Wednesday; many areas to the north had a good deal more.
It rained heavily enough for a time on Wednesday that we had a little river running through the property, not to be deterred by fresh prunings off one of the apple trees (which has several varieties that were grafted on to it last spring).
The main event of the rain lasted about 72.5 hours. During that time, only near the end were there as many as five straight half-hour increments (the archive time on my weather data-logger) in which no rain was recorded. At one time on 20-21 December, rain was recorded in 42 consecutive half-hour periods. That was part of a run of 123 of 132 half-hour periods in which rain was recorded. So, it rained rather persistently.
I can recall some phases of rain over a week or so long in the past that were impressive. As recently as January of 2010, for example. And no one who lived in Southern California at the time will forget “epic” rainy periods in 1983 and 1969. But usually these involve a series of discrete heavy storms, punctuated by several hours of some sunshine and no rain. This time, as the stats above reveal, it just kept raining. And raining. There were not even any breaks in the clouds, at least during daylight hours (and the record suggests not at night, either) from Saturday afternoon till Wednesday afternoon.
Today it was sunny and relatively warm (first time over 60 since 14 Dec.). But more rain is forecast for Saturday night and at some point during the coming week.
It’s a bit saturated around here.
We won’t have to irrigate for a while. And, thanks to that cold snap in late November, and more than a week of cool days (albeit fairly warm nights for the time of year) during the rain, we are almost to 250 chill hours already, which is good for the stone fruits.
In late November, we had a couple of mornings with temperatures just below freezing.
This photo shows a hedge with some frost damage a few days later (3 Dec.), along with two other signs of the season: a Hachiya persimmon laden with fruit, and a navel orange tree with fruit just starting to color up. (The orange also shows the results of some major limb breakage from fruit weight and high winds back in October; yes that’s one orange tree).
Fall/winter season is well underway.
The most recent evidence of that is four straight days of essentially uninterrupted rain.
Some more seasonal shots (all from late November or early December):