Monday, March 31, 2014

showers expected: drought continues

Colorado River water in Lake Mathews reservoir: March 29 2014

Showers are likely this week but the spell of cooler, wetter weather is unlikely to have significant impact on drought conditions across Southern California, according to forecasters and climatologists.

More than 95 percent of California was in severe drought as of March 25, a slight increase from the previous week, according to local, state and federal scientists with the U.S. Drought Monitor. The entire state was considered abnormally dry, a figure that remains unchanged from a year ago.

The first round of showers is expected Tuesday morning and again Wednesday with total precipitation through Thursday estimated .2 to .5 of an inch west of the mountains, and .5 to 1.5 inches over the mountains, according to the National Weather Service. Mountain snow levels could drop to 4,500 feet by Wednesday morning.

Lake Mathews from La Sierra Avenue: March 29 2014

The Lake Mathews reservoir was completed in 1939 by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as the western terminus of the Colorado River Aqueduct, according to Riverside County Integrated Project officials.

The maximum capacity for Lake Mathews is 182,000 acre feet, or 59.3 billion gallons, according to MWD.

On Saturday March 29, grass and other plants were growing on edges of the shore exposed by lower levels at the reservoir.

Lake Mathews south of Riverside: March 29 2014

The 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct begins at Parker Dam southeast of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It was conceived by William Mulholland and designed by Frank E. Weymouth of MWD, and it was built between 1933 and 1941 by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, according to Water and Power Associates. The aqueduct was the largest public works project in Southern California during the Great Depression.

The Metropolitan Water District, established in 1927, serves about 19 million people in a 5,200-square-mile area in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The district's water sources are the Colorado River and California State Water Project, according to MWD.

Lake Mathews reservoir: March 29 2014

The district's facilities include the aqueduct, pumping stations, Diamond Valley Lake, Lake Skinner, and other reservoirs in La Verne, Monterey Park and Palos Verdes, according to MWD.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power rates for single-dwelling unit residential customers are up this year to $4.68 per hundred cubic feet, or 748 gallons, an increase from $3.96 in 2013, according to DWP.

The Department of Water and Power, the nation's largest utility, gets water from sources including the Sierra Nevada via the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the State Water Project, the Metropolitan Water District, and groundwater basins.

Lake Mathews and exposed shoreline: March 29 2014

Big Bear Lake, which relies solely on precipitation that falls in the San Bernardino Mountains, has a capacity of 73,370 acre feet, according to Big Bear Municipal Water District.

As of Monday, Big Bear Lake was "pretty close to 52,000 acre feet, and 8 feet below full," BBMWD general manager Scott Heule said in a phone interview.

"It's down significantly over the last two years, not just this year," Heule said March 31. "We didn't get the inflow over the winter that we typically get."

When the lake level is below 6 feet none of its water goes to customers, and the lake is used strictly for recreation and fishery maintenance, Heule said.

"The point we want to stress is there's plenty of lake surface to recreate on," Heule said. "When it's full the lake surface is about 3,000 acres. Right now it's about 2,500 acres."

Lake Mathews is fenced and closed to the public.

Photos by Guy McCarthy


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

storm winds expected through thursday

Looking northwest from south Riverside: March 26 2014

A weak storm system continued moving across Southern California late Wednesday, with periods of light rain and strong winds in some mountain and desert areas, the National Weather Service advised.

Preliminary 24-hour rainfall totals as of 9 p.m. March 26 included .57 of an inch measured at Devore, .39 inch at Cal State San Bernardino and .11 inch in Temecula, according to the Weather Service.

A wind advisory was extended to 10 p.m. Thursday.

"A low pressure trough moving across the southwest will continue to bring strong westerly winds to the mountains and deserts tonight and Thursday," a Weather Service update stated.

"However . . . they will not be quite as strong as Wednesday when winds gusted over 65 mph in the lower deserts and produced widespread areas of blowing dust and sand. Instead . . . winds will range from 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 50 mph. . . . Winds will decrease Thursday night."

Sunny weather is expected Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with daytime highs in the 60s to low 70s for Banning and Beaumont, forecasters said.

Photo by Guy McCarthy


Saturday, March 22, 2014

update: forest falls teen remains unaccounted for

Update 10:54 a.m. March 23 A teenage girl from Forest Falls who was last seen Thursday remained unaccounted for as of Sunday morning, a sheriff's spokeswoman said in a phone interview.

A deputy contacted family of Misty Dawn Laur, 15, on March 23 and she had not been heard from, said Jodi Miller of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

"While it does appear she is voluntary missing and there is no indication of foul play, we request anyone with information to give us a call," Miller said.

Anyone with info about Misty was urged to call Sheriff's Dispatch at (909) 387-8313 or the Yucaipa Station at (909) 790-3105. 

Update 10:49 a.m. A 15-year-old girl from Forest Falls was believed missing as of Saturday morning, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a phone interview.

Misty Dawn Laur was believed to be "voluntary missing" and there was no indication of foul play in her disappearance, Jodi Miller of the Sheriff's Department said.

"We did receive a report from family members yesterday morning about her missing," Miller said. "Yesterday we did search - ground search, aerial search, and we had blood hounds search trails she often hikes. We searched all day, exhausting leads, and she was not located."

A deputy based in Forest Falls spoke to Misty's parents Saturday morning and she had not been heard from, Miller said.

Anyone with info about Misty's whereabouts was urged to call the sheriff's Yucaipa Station at (909) 790-3105 or Sheriff's Dispatch at (909) 387-8313. 

Posted 10:29 a.m. A teenage girl believed last seen Thursday March 20 has been reported missing in Forest Falls, and searches including sheriff's personnel and volunteers had turned up no sign of her as of Saturday morning, according to residents of the mountain town.

Forest Falls resident Jamie Graham contacted Watershed News before 8 a.m. Saturday and shared the following with a photo of Misty:

MISSING!!!!!!!!!! This is Misty Laur. She is a teenage girl missing from Forest Falls CA. She was last seen March 20,2014. The whole community is searching for her. It is not known if she left on her own or was taken. Please if you see her call San Bernardino County Sheriff. They have had search and rescue out searching the canyon with helicopters and blood hounds to no avail. She may be anywhere in the Inland Empire. Please help her father find her. He is worried sick. She is a sweet heart and we need to get her home safe. Thank you. Please share this photo and bring Misty home.

Graham referred questions to Misty's father, who has photos of his daughter on his Facebook page and a recent post:

Please help bring my daughter home safe Misty Dawn Laur ....My daughter went missing thursday march 20th at 5 pm Please help....thanks Michael D Laur

An employee at Elkhorn General Store in Forest Falls reached Saturday morning said by phone that people searched in Mill Creek Canyon on Friday, and the search included a helicopter and dogs.

Representatives with the Sheriff's Department could not immediately be reached to comment for this report.

Stay with Watershed News for updates.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

update: 93 percent of cali in severe drought

Whitewater Canyon: March 17 2014

More than 93 percent of California was in a state of severe drought as of March 18, a slight increase from a week ago, a coalition of climatologists with the U.S. Drought Monitor announced Thursday.

In addition, more than 71 percent of the state was in extreme drought, a 6 percent increase since last week, according to data released Thursday March 20.

"The benefits of the February and early-March precipitation rapidly diminished across California and the Southwest as unseasonable warmth and dryness increased water demands and depleted snowpacks," Eric Luebehusen of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a summary.

Conditions in California are unlikely to change before April arrives, Luebehusen said.

"Little - if any - drought relief is expected from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains, with precipitation during the upcoming monitoring period mostly confined to the Northeast and Gulf Coast," Luebehusen said. "Dry weather will persist . . . from California to the southern High Plains."

The entire state of California is "abnormally dry," an estimate that remained unchanged from last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a partnership that includes that includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the USDA and the University of Nebraska.

The cities of Riverside and Los Angeles experienced the driest years in their recorded history in 2013, according to the National Weather Service.

View the Drought Monitor's March 20 update at this link.

March 17 photo by Guy McCarthy


Monday, March 17, 2014

video: east pass winds


It was windy Monday March 17 in the San Gorgonio Pass, with winds out of the west between noon and sundown, and dust storms visible south of Whitewater Canyon.

The National Weather Service predicted a 180-degree shift in wind direction for Monday night through Wednesday.

Pressure building over the Great Basin was expected to generate offshore winds late Monday through Wednesday afternoon, according to the Weather Service. Northeast to east winds 15 to 30 miles per hour with gusts to 45 mph were expected for passes and canyons Tuesday.

Video by Guy McCarthy

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

update: northeast winds prompt red flag warnings

Looking east up Mill Creek Canyon: 7 a.m. March 11 2014 by Guy McCarthy

By Guy McCarthy

Update 4:19 p.m. The National Weather Service has upgraded a fire weather watch for inland foothill, mountain and desert communities to a red flag warning "for strong gusty winds and low humidities" from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday March 12. 

Posted 1:14 p.m. Dry winds out of the northeast are forecast for late Tuesday through Wednesday evening, and a fire weather watch has been issued for an area including the Mountain Top, Front Country and San Jacinto ranger districts in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Red flag warnings were issued further west in L.A. and Ventura counties, where sustained winds to 40 miles per hour and gusts to 65 mph are possible in areas including the Hollywood Hills and Malibu, according to the National Weather Service.

Wind advisories for the Inland Empire and Coachella Valley are posted for 11 p.m. March 11 to 6 p.m. March 12, with north to northeast winds of 20 to 35 mph possible. Gusts to 65 mph may occur in some foothill areas.

In spite of heavy rains less than two weeks ago, daytime humidity levels could drop to 10 percent in some areas, and "critical fire weather conditions are forecast to occur," the Weather Service warned.

Sunlight on Mill Creek Jumpoff: 7:30 a.m. March 11 2014 by Guy McCarthy
Increased fire risks are a concern across parched Southern California, where the cities of Riverside and Los Angeles experienced their driest calendar years on record in 2013.

Concern is also evident in towns along Mill Creek. Eight years ago, the Mill Creek Canyon Fire Safe Council issued a report for Mountain Home Village and Forest Falls stating historical data from 1900 to 2004 shows large fires have never occurred in the densely forested, easternmost areas of Mill Creek Canyon. Numerous fires have occurred in the west end of the canyon and on Yucaipa Ridge.

'San Bernardino County Supervisors, Circa 1914' restored by Fred Flyfisher Fotos

On a more upbeat note, residents of Mountain Home Village are preparing to celebrate a century of local history later this month. Organizers are using the photo above to promote their event. Historians say it shows county elected officials a hundred years ago at the opening of the "Middle Control Road" on the way to Big Bear.

The celebration is scheduled Saturday March 22 and includes a mountain bike ride at 8 a.m., walking tours at Loch Leven, and a 2 p.m. presentation about Mountain Home Village and the Lower Control Road by historian Tom Atchley.

Loch Leven is at 8171 Mountain Home Creek Road, about three miles past Mill Creek Ranger Station. For more info call Sloan at (909) 794-2507 or Carol at (909) 794-6713.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

recent storm 'no drought buster'

Click to View Large

Storms last week and through the past weekend brought badly needed rain and snow to California but they did little to affect the ongoing statewide drought, climatologists at the National Drought Mitigation Center and Caltech's NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in La CaƱada said in phone interviews.

"The big picture for California is the rain is welcome, but realistically the drought did not change from that one single precipitation event," Bill Fuchs with the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday March 6. "It brought some relief but it did not do a whole lot to change the overall situation."

The National Drought Mitigation Center is a federal partnership that includes the University of Nebraska, NOAA and the USDA. The drought in California is long-term and the recent rains were not enough to make a significant difference, Bill Patzert at JPL said.

"We had improvement," Patzert said. "Los Angeles was 10 percent of normal and now it's around 49 percent. So does that put a dent in the drought? Statistically speaking it did. But the reality is when you get that much water that rapidly it's like somebody shooting a fire hose and trying to catch it in a champagne glass.

"We've engineered So Cal 80 so that 90 percent of that rain water ends up in the ocean," Patzert said. "Statistically it looked like we went from 10 to 50 percent of normal but it came so fast we didn't catch it. We're not engineered to catch it, we're engineered to move the water to the ocean because we concrete lined all the rivers."

Here's a rundown of the storm from the National Drought Mitigation Center published March 6:

A blockbuster storm struck California as the calendar turned from February to March, averting a record-breaking season for dryness. From February 26 – March 2, the potent storm - and a weaker, initial system - accounted for more than 75 percent of the season-to-date precipitation in California locations such as Burbank (4.78 of 5.28 inches); downtown Los Angeles (4.52 of 5.72 inches); Camarillo (3.66 of 4.85 inches); and Sandberg (3.04 of 3.93 inches). However, after the precipitation ended, season-to-date (July 1 – March 4) totals were just 40 percent of normal in Burbank, Camarillo, and Sandberg, and 49 percent of normal in downtown Los Angeles.

At the height of the second storm, on February 28, Los Angeles - with 2.24 inches - experienced its wettest day since March 20, 2011. Los Angeles also received at least an inch of rain on 3 consecutive days (February 27 – March 1) for the first time since December 18-20, 2010. Benefits from the storms extended northward along the California coast and into some northern areas of the state, leading to a modest reduction in the coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4). However, short-term benefits from the storms were mostly offset by still-large, 3-year precipitation deficits, low reservoir levels, and a sub-par snowpack.

The California Department of Water Sources reported a slight jump in the water equivalency of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack. The water content, which averaged just 5 inches (22 percent of the late-February normal) prior to the two storms, climbed to 8 inches (33 percent) by March 5. The snowfall was heaviest in the southern Sierra Nevada, where a slight reduction in the coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) resulted.

Storm water, mud and debris behind San Gabriel Dam: March 4 2014

The drought over the past 15 years has waxed and waned since 1999, Patzert said. During the past 30 years the demand for water has dramatically increased, for agriculture, new housing, suburban uses, and at the same time the population of California has quadrupled.

"Demand is up and over the last 15 years the supply is down," Patzert said. "You get a big storm and Mother Nature gets your hopes up but then it doesn't rain for another five or six months. Maybe we get another five years of this. If you look at the history of California it's written in droughts and they tend to be long. There's no quick fix for a drought.

"Everybody started hyperventilating about this storm last week," Patzert said. "It wasn't record breaking. This was an average storm. We hadn't seen one in such a long time, but it's no drought buster."

For background see:

How Dry was 2013? Cities of Riverside and L.A. Had Driest Calendar Years on Record

Photo by Guy McCarthy