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El Niño Is Coming

topex_pacific_2003097_lrgHave you been enjoying our warm weather lately? I sure have. I just recently put on jeans for the first time in over 3 weeks. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worn shorts for that long in my entire life in San Francisco. It’s a sign — El Niño is coming.

I predicted this last year. Summer last year was freezing and I also don’t think I had heard more people misquoting Mark Twain talking about The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. It was cold alright, but when our San Francisco Indian Summer kicked in it became kind of magical here. The problem was that usually around late November it starts to get cold — it didn’t. It was a bit on the cool side, but nothing near what it should have been. As time went on we had more warm weather with a freak downpour in February that lasted about 15 minutes after which I was seeing steam coming off the ground in the Sunset District.

It was then I knew that I was right and El Niño would be coming. NOAA has been saying we’ll have one, but it won’t be huge. I’m predicting it will be a pretty big one. We had a big one in 1999 which means only about five people were here to experience it. Let me tell you what it was like…

Expect rain, lots of rain. It’ll be different than the usual rain in that it will be more like it’s raining in Hawaii. It will be like someone turned a firehose on San Francisco for 15-20 minutes and then it will stop. The rain will be so heavy that when it stops if you are driving that you will have to drive through a temporary river that takes another 10 minutes to flow away. It will then be sunny and warm again. The general weather will change from overcast to sunny all throughout the day with weird downpours every now and then. The weirdest part of the rain is that it’ll come from smaller clouds that won’t be blocking out the sun so you’ll get a fierce downpour combined with sun which can look like diamonds falling from the sky. In 1999 it was so bizarre that on New Years Eve I was sitting out in front of my house BBQ’ing Ostrich steaks [I had money back then].

Rain is good. California needs it badly. It will help our drought problem, but it won’t make it go away. California is one of the largest agricultural providers in the entire United States so any water we can get we’ll take. You have to keep in mind though that will lots of sudden rain there will be problems — like land slides.

If you live in Marin or on the Peninsula expect to encounter the hills flowing into your backyards. I remember reading about lots of people losing their homes last time the big El Niño hit us. If you have even a little bit of survivalist in you I’d stock up now just in case. If you’re in San Francisco expect to see the storm drains overflowing to the point that you’ll see a few manhole covers rising up from water pushing its way out. If you’re living in the eastern part of the city where you might have a lower apartment, get sandbags. You’ll be flooded. If there’s any drainage system in place make sure it works because it will be overloaded.

El Niño is a weird phenomenon that hits us about every 5 years where the water temperature in the ocean rises considerably. The warmer it gets the worse El Niño is for us. I remember in 1999 a friend of mine who was a scuba diver bought a dry suit to keep him warmer during his dives and he ended up never putting it on once that year. San Francisco will become a little more tropical for a few months so the best thing I can say is to enjoy it and hope that it’s big enough to put a dent in our drought.

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