LOS ANGELES – The rainwater from a rare spring storm that pooled on Gilbert Jaffe’s front sidewalk could be viewed as a nuisance, but in California’s extreme drought conditions, he was treating it like the precious resource it’s become.
Jaffe, a retired Boeing engineer, was scooping up buckets of water during brief rains Tuesday night and carrying it into barrels in his backyard near downtown Los Angeles.
“I’ve been collecting water for a couple of years,” Jaffe said. “I use the rainwater for my garden.”
He said he’d been watering his tomatoes and peppers for six weeks with rain he collected during a bigger storm in February, and hoped his new take could continue his no-tap-water streak.
The storm that had doused Northern California for the previous 24 hours arrived in Southern California on Tuesday night, bringing mostly light but necessary rainfall across much of the region.
Thousands were without power for several hours because of the storm, and the Los Angeles Dodgers had a rare rain delay on the second day of the season, though there wasn’t nearly enough moisture for a rainout.
Amy Jackson, 35, of Los Angeles, a corporate securities paralegal, expressed joy at the storm as she had a cigarette in the lee of a downtown skyscraper.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have rain,” she said. “I mean, we’re in a really severe drought right now. It’s been scary, actually, as to how low our reservoirs have gotten … so to even have this little bit, it’s great.”
Not everyone was happy.
“Rain makes me insane,” said high school student James Haynes, 16, of Los Angeles, as he sheltered from drizzle outside a hotel while waiting for a ride home. “I’ve got to take the bus … and with all that rain and stuff … that’s too much to deal with. I’ve already got to go to school every day. I’ve got to deal with the rain too?” If he had his way “it would rain never,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the unusually cold spring storm brought heavy rain and hail to parts of Northern California and coated the mountains in snow – a welcome respite but one that will do little to ease the historic drought, forecasters say.
The storm brought enough snow to the Sierra near Lake Tahoe to produce near white-out conditions on roadways and a string of traffic accidents that caused the California Highway Patrol to order motorists off a 15-mile stretch of a major highway on Tuesday afternoon.
In the Sierra, up to 6 inches of snow is expected above 7,000 feet, with 2 to 4 inches expected to accumulate as low as 3,000 feet before the system clears out Wednesday.
More than an inch fell on some counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, where rainy weather slowed the morning commute, caused some wrecks and led to wind advisories for four bridges, officials said.
In Daly City, south of San Francisco, at least one car was submerged in rainwater that was flooding Interstate 280 on-ramps. In Fremont, a tractor-trailer jack-knifed, blocking northbound Interstate 680 for several hours.
Fresno County Farmer Keith Nilmeier needs the rain for sure. Nilmeier grows 320 acres of citrus, peaches and wine grapes. The rain will force him to spray his trees with fungicide to keep fruit from rotting. But Nilmeier said it is worth the extra expense, because California needs the water.
“That’s farming,” he said. “You deal with Mother Nature on her own terms.”
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown announced he had ordered cities and towns to cut the state’s overall water usage by 25 per cent compared with 2013 levels. The snowpack makes its way into rivers and streams and provides 30 per cent of the state’s water.