This year has brought the most rain in California since the start of the five-year drought in 2012 causing floods, leaks and dangerous spills impacting California Lutheran University students and the California community.
According to the National Weather Service, the last five years had been the driest climate documented in the Los Angeles area.
“We are in a La Niña year, the reason we are getting rain like it’s an El Niño is because in the previous El Niño the water temperatures cooled off and rose up, which created a high pressure system that only hit Washington and Oregon, while we got a drought, which has never occurred before,” said William Bilodeau, Cal Lutheran geology professor.
Bilodeau said that Ventura County has received about 18 inches of rain so far in 2017, while the yearly average is about 15 inches.
As a result, Cal Lutheran students and faculty have had to face a few challenges.“With this last storm [Feb. 17], we had about 40 building leaks, which were minor but still the most we’ve ever had,” said Ryan Van Ommeren, associate vice president of Facilities.
Ommeren also said there was an issue in the first-year residence halls where the runoff from the roof would come down in those halls splash onto the ground, which sometimes went under the doors.
“The biggest impact we’ve had though, with this wet season, is that we’re trying to build that new art center to be ready for fall. That’s really been challenging because it’s pushed our construction complete date till right when school starts,” Ommeren said.
The rainstorms also flooded Cal Lutheran’s Kingsmen Park and caused a big flow of rushing water to flush through the creek.
There have also been dangerous impacts throughout the state of California.
Kelsey Alter, a junior at Cal Lutheran studying environmental science who works as an intern for the city of Santa Clarita, said 46 trees were knocked down in Santa Clarita alone during the rainstorm Feb 17, causing debris along roads and sidewalks.
According to the Los Angeles Times, other sources of problems were caused by the dryness that the state of California had accumulated over the drought years, with evacuation orders in areas affected by large fires such as Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
For the 101 Northbound freeway, “over the past few years, we’ve had so many fires, and it’s been so dry for so long and the hillsides just got too saturated and spilled all over the highway and stopped traffic,” Bilodeau said.
There is also concern for the reservoirs, dams and spillovers that may overflow during these period of high rainfall in a short amount of time.
According to CNBC, the emergency spillway for the Oroville Dam in northern California was tested for the first time Feb. 11. The spillway is essentially unlined hillside, so the runoff sent a lot of mud and debris through the water channels, forcing at least 180,000 people to evacuate their homes.
“From a scientific perspective, it’s an issue because the water that gets runoff into the ocean is picking up bits of debris, chemical runoff, and nutrients from our farm fertilizers, and we can’t utilize it,” Alter said.
Bilodeau said the rain year is calculated from October to April, with most of typical heavy rains occurring between March and April, so there is a chance that the heaviest rains are still ahead.
By Rebecca Austin