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El Nino, Both of Them
December, 2015 - Issue #134
Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like a mass of warm water in the equatorial Pacific producing storm after storm. It's true. El Nino, after all, means "the child." That child is Jesus Christ, whose birthday happens to coincide with the usual start of the rainy weather phenomenon. Thinking about the origins of the name adds an interesting dimension to conversations about the weather. El Nino made me late for work. I had to get the roof redone for El Nino. We can start watering our lawns again because of El Nino. In short, El Nino is coming, so we best make ready.

Agritourism
Halloween and Thanksgiving kick off the end-of-year festivities, but for many Claritans, the celebrations just weren't quite the same this year. The lack of rain and unfavorable conditions in Bouquet Canyon meant no good supply of water for crop irrigation at Lombardi Ranch. El Nino came too late for the rolling farm to produce the harvest we've come to expect. Without Lombardi's to raise home-grown pumpkins, corn for the table and seasonal squashes, it felt like something was missing. You never know you'll miss locally-grown decorative gourds until they're gone.

Lombardi Ranch has become something of a poster child for the drought's effect on "agritourism." That's when people hop in the car to visit pumpkin patches, corn mazes, sunflower fields and roadside farm stands. In one particularly melodramatic piece for the L.A. Times, Geoffrey Mohan wrote about the good old days when Bob Lombardi and his wife "had youth, hope and water." And now, "All three are gone, and this may be the end of Lombardi Ranch." Though no help this year, El Nino is a hopeful reminder that conditions can change. Contrary to what Mohan suggests, let's hope the ranch will rise again.

Mud in the Forecast
If you have been exposed to any weather-related news lately, you know that this winter should be rainier than normal but that it won't magically undo the effects of the drought. It's repeated day after day on all the weather reports. Every little bit of rain helps, but much more is needed to replenish groundwater and refill reservoirs. We know, we know, a thousand times, we know.

Far more useful would be forecasts of seething streams of mud like the sort that wreaked havoc late this fall. It might be too much to expect with today's technology, but a little advance notice about flash floods and mudslides would be more useful information than, say, today's dew point. A single October storm mobilized 200,000 cubic yards of mud which shut down about 30 miles of roads in northern LA County. If you're new to the area, Lake Hughes Road and Elizabeth Lake are particularly worth avoiding should El Nino bring yet more torrential rains. In addition to our roads, the rains will also be testing homes on steep slopes and structures built mere feet above the wash. The future is looking muddy.

Homeless Helped
Winter storms transform the dry and dusty Santa Clara River into a colossal, raging torrent, a problem for many Santa Claritans. That's because our homeless don't live on the streets so much as they live in the wash. Partially in anticipation of a severe El Nino, the LA County Board of Supervisors has approved measures that will direct millions of dollars to helping the county's homeless. More locally, Bridge to Home plans to open its homeless shelter for a month longer than usual. Its services will be essential as more people will require shelter for longer.
It's pretty sad to think that Santa Clarita, LA's third largest city, still doesn't have a year-round homeless shelter. People live and die in the wash largely unnoticed, a point driven home this summer when an unidentified body was found in the riverbed. That's a shame. So if you look around you and see walls, a ceiling and the basic necessities, consider helping out those in need. It's so much easier to heart SCV winters, storms and all, when you know that both you and your neighbors have a warm place to call home.

This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor. Suggestions, catty comments and veiled threats intended for the author can be e-mailed to iheartscv@insidescv.com.
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