Trees down: blame drought or El Niño?

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Most longtime residents would agree that September weather in Canyon Lake is quite interesting. Historically, it’s the hottest month of the year; but it also sees some of the most dramatic and damaging storms.

Some residents might have thought that tree removal had begun for the Main Gate redesign project when crews began cutting down one of the large pine trees in the median last week. The tree was another casualty of the September 9 storm. The Association says the wind uprooted it and it was leaning toward traffic, so they decided to have it cut down for safety reasons. Photo by Donna Kupke.

Some residents might have thought that tree removal had begun for the Main Gate redesign project when crews began cutting down one of the large pine trees in the median last week. The tree was another casualty of the September 9 storm. The Association says the wind uprooted it and it was leaning toward traffic, so they decided to have it cut down for safety reasons. Photo by Donna Kupke.

A number of trees in the community toppled during the brief but powerful storm that swept through a week ago Wednesday. But a look back at other Septembers over the years, including last year, reveals that powerful September storms aren’t that unusual.

What is interesting and confusing to many this year is the fact that messages about the drought and the importance of conserving water continue to bombard the public; while at the same time, Californians are being urged to prepare for what is predicted to be a very wet winter. (Surprisingly, the two rain events that took place between September 9 and 15 delivered less than an inch of rain, according to Weatherman Pat Elliano. Wind gusts measured 58 mph.)

A recent LA Times article noted, “The strengthening El Niño has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.”

However, officials warn against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. In fact, Kevin Werner, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s expert on climate in the western United States, says it would take an astonishing two and a half to three times the average annual precipitation to make up for the rain and snow lost in the central Sierra mountain range over just the last four years.

With these predictions in mind, many Canyon Lakers are doing what they can to prepare. Some are taking action on the drought by replacing lawns and water-thirsty plants with drought-tolerant landscape, hardscape and artificial turf. Some are taking action on the predicted El Niño by making repairs to roofs, cleaning out drains and pruning large trees.

What else should Canyon Lakers do to be prepared for El Niño? “Flooding is the most expensive natural disaster in the United States,” says Olivia Humilde, FEMA’s Mitigation Outreach Specialist. “We all know that mother nature will do her thing, and you can’t really control it.” But you can prepare for it.

Residents can identify their flood risk by entering their address at www.floodsmart.com. They also can talk to their neighbors to find out what happened in their neighborhood during the heavy rains of 1998 and 2005, especially since Canyon Lake homes are built on many different elevations, situated above and below other homes and empty lots. In 1998, the ground became so saturated that water actually seeped through the walls of some homes with rooms below ground level.

If there appears to be a risk, consider flood insurance. Most homeowners’ insurance policies don’t cover flooding so, if it’s felt to be a consideration, now is the time to buy it. Policies usually take 30 days to go into effect.

This week’s issue of The Friday Flyer looks at surviving the drought. Future issues will look at surviving the storms.

In the meantime, residents will want to check out www.rivcoready.org, “Ready In 30.” Each day during the month of September (National Preparedness Month), the County of Riverside’s Emergency Management Department is providing a tip or suggestion on being prepared for El Niño and other disasters.

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Sharon Rice