Wild storm season continues havoc
News Review Staff Writer
An uncharacteristically active storm season continues to wreak havoc on the region, with at least three flashfloods stranding local motorists in the last week.
According to Tamara Walters, China Lake Meteorologist, this year’s thunderstorm season has been both longer lasting and more intense than is typical.
“This is that time of year when we have that monsoonal flow,” she said. “When the highs and lows are situated just right, we get that fetch [an area of waves on the water surface generated by a steady wind] from the Gulf of Mexico. But when everything lines up just right, it brings almost tropical weather all the way to our desert.”
This season the storms arrived nearly a month earlier than usual with the microburst on July 2. The damage of that storm was enough to knock out power to China Lake for the day. Another microburst on July 22 broke car windows and uprooted trees.
Though many reported those incidents as funnel clouds or tornadoes, Walters said that they were just intense winds created in the thunderstorms. “When they hit the ground they form a wave almost like a big circle. But our mountains prevent our storms from getting big enough to make a tornado.”
Walters said that the precipitation measured at the airfield does not indicate an increase in rainfall, though the sporadic nature of downpours makes it difficult to record valley-wide levels. She did say that the number of incidents is higher than normal.
“In an average year we get four days of thunderstorms. We’ve already had more than that, and I wish I could say we were done with it — I know I’m tired of the humidity — but I think we are not necessarily out of the woods yet,” said Walters.
Last Monday a downpour south of Red Rock Canyon caused flash floods that stranded motorists on Garlock Road. Storms on Sunday afternoon similarly closed Highway 395 at Coso Junction, as well as the Wildrose Road into Death Valley.
“That’s the nature of thunderstorms. As they mature and start to dissipate, they just dump whatever rain they’ve got,” said Walters.
“The flooding itself is terrain induced. First of all you have all these slopes feeding into one valley.” And soil unaccustomed to such rains leaves water sitting on the surface, racing to the lowest point — and causing problems if a road happens to be at that low point.
For updates from the National Weather Service, visit www.weather.gov. For additional coverage and updates on local weather incidents, visit www.facebook.com/HighDesertNews or www.youtube.com/HighDesertNews.Story First Published: 2013-07-31