January 11th, 2005

hopper_ground_swell

The Big Wet

This weather system has turned into an Event. Ten feet of snow in the higher mountains, Los Angeles washed entirely out to sea, Las Vegas to become a beach town- it's the best in years! Well, OK, the part about the 10 feet of snow in the mountains is true, but the rest might be slightly exaggerated. The odd thing is that, from here, it has seemed for the most part a rather mild, if prolonged, storm. There hasn't even been serious flooding along Butte Creek, as far as I've heard. But L.A. is getting pounded. People are sometimes surprised at the intensity storms can sometimes have in the southern part of the state. A century of flood control projects has disguised the results of the big storms.

Hardly anyone remembers that, in the 19th century, there were winters when hundreds of square miles of Los Angeles County were underwater at times. Before it was paved, the Los Angeles River was prone to radical changes of its course. Historically, it often flowed west into Santa Monica Bay, rather than south to San Pedro Bay as it now does. As recently as 1825, it flowed west from just south of what is now downtown all year round, and had done so for some time. And as recently as the early 20th century, Los Angeles was described as a place where the rivers flowed underground eleven months of the year, and through the streets the other month. It could be that the place is now going to have a hundred year flood. Maybe even a 500 year flood. If so, I'm sorry that I'm going to miss it. I always enjoyed the floods when I was a kid, especially when the older bridges across the San Gabriel River came apart and went floating down the raging stream. Ah, nostalgia. At least there's television now, so I'll get to see it in miniature.

My favorite part of the rain here has been when the earliest-rising neighbors who commute drive their cars down the still-dark street, and I watch the rain falling in their headlights. I love riding through rain at night, but seldom get to do it anymore. Watching somebody else do it is the next best thing.
caillebotte_man at his window

Light

Every fireplace and wood stove in town must be lit. Their smoke, held low to the ground, drifts like fog, from which it can be differentiated in this chilly air only by its pungent smell. It looks as though all the dark damp left by the storm were vaporizing. But it is icy cold. The clouds have rapidly dissipated with dusk, remaining only in the west, where sunset makes of them an orange and purple bruise. Through a haze of bare oak twigs I see the thinnest crescent of waxing moon. Once the fires are banked, the night will be clear. Tomorrow, sunlight, at last.


Take a look at the Look at Me Project, a collection of found photographs of unidentified people.