In recent years, the prospect of heavy rains might have sounded good to many people living in California, where drought and wildfires have been the main worries.
That was not the case on this weekend, as Hurricane Hilary moved north from the coast of Baja California in Mexico and threatened to dump six to 10 inches of rain on the region.
After three of the driest years in California history, much of the state is currently free of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Storms fueled by “atmospheric rivers” this winter led to flooding and destruction across the state, but they also relieved severe drought conditions across wide swaths of the state, including Los Angeles and San Diego Counties, both of which were in Hilary’s path.
Heavy winter rain, as well as record amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, also has filled many of the state’s reservoirs well above historical averages, according to California Water Watch, a daily tracker maintained by the California Department of Water Resources.
And while wildfires remain a threat across the state, this year’s fire season has been significantly less destructive when compared with a five-year average of fire incidents and acres burned.
“We are quieter this season because of the large amount of rain and snow that we received over the winter — historic amounts in some cases,” said Capt. Robert Foxworthy, the information officer for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Alex Hall, a professor of the atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that dry and wet weather events have been made worse, or “juiced,” by climate change.
“The net effect is we do have much deeper extremes,” Dr. Hall said. “It’s boomier and bustier. People have used the word ‘whiplash’ before.”