‘Atmospheric river’ drenches valley

‘Atmospheric river’ drenches valleyAn oversaturated desertscape west of Jacks Ranch Road is waterlogged after constant rain earlier this week. — Photo by Laura Austin

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By REBECCA NEIPP

News Review Staff Writer

“No need to panic! As you may have noticed, there is water falling from the sky. We Googled it and discovered that it is called rain. It turns out that the occasional rain is good for the desert. It makes green things grow!”

This cheeky statement, prepared by Ridgecrest Police Department addressed flash-flood warnings and other outcomes from the downpour over the Indian Wells Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday.

While Wednesday’s early-morning flash-flood warnings never materialized, RPD did acknowledge that several intersections around town were reportedly flooded, and cautioned drivers to slow down and remain alert during their morning commutes.

Warnings have been issued across California, as storms “tapping into an atmospheric river” are yielding heavy snow over the mountains and driving up the risk for flash floods in the foothills.

“I know that ‘atmospheric river’ has become the popular term these days, but I think it’s a misleading term,” said China Lake Forecaster Tamera Walters. “What’s causing it is the atypical position of El Nino this year.”

While the system normally forms off South America, this year’s El Nino weather condition is farther off the coast in the Eastern Pacific, said Walters. “That causes the jet streams to push more than the normal amount of moisture into our area.”

She noted that, barely 10 weeks into the calendar year, the Indian Wells Valley has already hit its average rainfall — something that has not happened here since 2010.

“Looking back through the logs, you see an inch, two inches, maybe three inches, for an entire year,” said Walters. “We have already hit 4.72 inches, which is average for a normal year.”

January and February were both slightly above average, she said, “But in March we have far exceeded our average.”

The valley saw about 1.74 inches in the one-day storm, for a total of 1.96 inches for March (so far). She said that is the most we have seen in March since the early 1990s (and those numbers were as of the fifth of this month).

Story First Published: 2019-03-08