Originally published on LA Daily News
“The El Niño rains are still coming! They’ll be here in January . . . February, no, we mean March, possibly April, or even late May,” the local weather forecasters all say.
Yet our days feel remarkably like summer, and El Niño seems like a bust.
I don’t blame the scientists. After all, our ocean waters have indeed warmed; we’ve seen the dead crabs and poisonous snakes on our beaches to prove it.
The scientists are not responsible for the forecasts going awry. In truth, it was me. I stopped the rain from coming, by massively over-preparing and giving into full-throttle storm-watch hysteria. I jinxed El Niño. I jinxed it good.
When my husband and I first heard talk of imminent El Niño storms we immediately placed a call to a roofer. Our roof was well past its prime; its tissue paper-like shingles mere shards of their former glory. The previous winter all it took were a few showers before leaks developed and we had to race to place buckets throughout our den. We shuddered to think what a series of El Niño storms could do.
So we borrowed enough money to send our roofer’s daughter to her first year of private college, forked it over, and in exchange were given a sturdy, top of the line, El Niño-proof roof, with plenty of time to spare before the coming deluge.
But that’s not all. When removing the old roof, the gutters somehow got damaged or bent. Oh sure, we could have salvaged a few sections of them, but the paint wouldn’t have matched, and a new roof should have new gutters, right? If we were going to get hammered with months of rain, our gutters had to keep up.
During the first fall showers we sat smugly in our home, confident that our new roof and gutters were doing their job. But then we noticed something – our yard drainage wasn’t quite right. Those puddles and misdirected runoff would surely lead to disaster when the real storms came.
So we spent the weekend digging out mud and sludge from the drainage swale above our hillside home. Then, the following weekend we created and filled a drainage path, with rocks and sand, to prevent the inevitable torrents of water from undermining our driveway cement. It was fun!
Though our house was now well prepared, the reports still had us concerned. FEMA had suggested that Californians purchase flood insurance, and we wondered if they could be right. Logically speaking, it was the homes beneath us, lower on our street, that were more likely to get flooded, but you can never be too sure. A policy would cost just a few hundred dollars, and I sure didn’t want to be the one who looked back, full of regret, wishing I hadn’t been too cheap to buy flood insurance, when everything we owned – our house – was on the line?
But our El Niño preparations did not stop there. One car got new tires, both cars new windshield wipers blades, our daughters got new coats and umbrellas, and our hound a doghouse for the rare moments he might be caught outside.
Then, in what I now see as the final coup de grace, this native Californian did something impulsive, embarrassing, and downright silly – – I bought rain boots.
Yes, shiny black rain boots, because I sure as heck didn’t want to ruin my regular shoes trudging through puddles on the way to my office or to the grocery store – puddles created by the torrential downpour that was certain to come.
The rain boots were the last straw. They were one storm prep too many, upsetting the forces of nature and stopping El Niño in its tracks. For this I apologize and take the blame.
I toyed with returning my never-worn boots, hoping that doing so would break the spell. But as I removed them from my bedroom closet, something caught my eye. The planks of our retaining wall had apparently started to bulge. I worried that water from a handful of storms could undermine that wall, allowing the hillside to push through our bedroom window.
We contacted a landscape contractor, but he wanted enough money to send his daughter to a year of public college to repair it, and now I’m not sure what to do. By repairing the wall, I might further jinx El Niño.
Perhaps if I do nothing, the drought-ending rains will finally come. Maybe this is a sacrifice that, for the good of my fellow Californians, I should make.
Then again, a mountain of mud in my bedroom could prove to be unpleasant.
And I’ve heard that the El Niño rains might still come, maybe in March, possibly in April, or even as late as May.