I’m beginning to think that it cannot simply be my imagination. I am, I have become convinced, the Bringer of Rain.
Before I explain my basis for this belief, a bit of background:
Blessed with a Mediterranean climate, the Los Angeles area is almost entirely unfamiliar with rainfall. It is a large part of the appeal,the beautiful, predictable, mild weather. You see it in the ads, on the billboards: Visit Sunny L.A.!
But how rare is the rain here? Turns out: Pretty damned rare. In fact, historically, the L.A. region averages only 14.8 inches of precipitation a year. For comparison purposes, Chicago gets 36.9 inches. So L.A. gets less than half of Chicago’s annual downpour in any given year.
So…not a lot of rain, right? Okay. Now for the story:
Once, when I was here visiting my friend Dean, the L.A. area was hit with an unseasonably nasty storm. He was driving me somewhere- I don’t remember where- and when the rain started crashing down, Dean switched on his windshield wipers.
They were, however, clearly broken and as the wipers began to feebly swish back and forth, I noticed that they were doing little to clear the moisture off the front of the car. It was pathetic and I said as much.
“Yeah,” said Dean. “I’ve really got to get that fixed. But I almost never have to use them so I forget.”
Flash forward six months. I’m back in Los Angeles and, again, I’m in the car with Dean. And, inexplicably, it starts to rain again, just as it had during my last visit. In response, Dean reaches down and flicks on the wipers.
Just as before, they start to spasmodically lurch back and forth, doing a sad but unconvincing impersonation of windshield wipers. This time, though, they had added a comical sound effect to their work, a kind of screeeeech-womp, screeeeeech-womp every time they made a pass in front of us.
I think I said something positive and encouraging, like “Are you fucking kidding me?”
And Dean said, “Give me a break, man. It hasn’t rained since the last time you were here.”
Which had been six months earlier.
Coincidence? No. The same thing happened about four years ago. I had flown in for a writing project and was staying here in Tarzana with Paul. The person I was working with lived in Sierra Madre, which meant driving up through Northern L.A., past Pasadena and into the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.
On the way there in Paul’s car, a freak storm blew up and the other drivers and I found ourselves being pelted by the most gigantic, violent raindrops I had ever seen in my life. It was as if someone had turned a firehose on the front of the car. I hydroplaned halfway to Sierra Madre, barely navigating my way through the cataclysm.
Describing it to Paul later, he said “Wow. That almost never happens here.”
I began to have my doubts.
And that brings us to this week.
As you probably know, for the past four years, “sunny Los Angeles” has really lived up to its name. The average rainfall here- from 2011 through 2015- has been between 6 to 9 inches below the average for the region. That means that they have been getting as much rain in two years as they normally get in one. And it barely rained here to begin with.
This has been a historic drought and has devastated the state in countless ways. Besides draining reservoirs, parching crops, kicking up wildfires and killing off the flora and fauna, the citizens of California have had to cut back drastically on their water usage.
They let their lawns die, they took shorter showers, they stopped washing their cars, they only drank water from a bottle. Hell, you had to actually request a glass of water in a restaurant if you wanted one. It was that bad.
Enter the Rainman.
From the moment I arrived on Monday morning, it has been pouring here. And it isn’t showing any signs of stopping. In fact, if it dumps the amount of rain they are predicting, this storm is likely to deliver up to six inches of rain before Friday. That’s more rain than Los Angeles received in the year 2012. The entire year.
The L.A. river is surging. There is widespread flooding. There are rumors of mudslides, road closures, dogs and cats co-habitating. It’s crazy and is likely to continue all week long.
So…you’re welcome, L.A.
Really, don’t mention it.
It’s what I do.