When it hasn’t rained in 53 days, and it’s actually the rainy season, it’s no wonder that nearly everyone was caught off guard by the refreshing wet weather that passed through Kaweah Country on Thursday, January 30. It dumped on average .25 inches in the foothills, and though that total won’t bust any drought, it’s a start.
But start to what? There is no rainfall in the seven-day forecast but hopefully it won’t be another 50-plus days until it rains again.
The recent rainfall brings the local season total to about two inches. That’s by far the lowest total ever recorded for the end of January. Elevations above 8,000 feet received six to eight inches of snow but the local snowpack is non-existent.
There are so many drought-related impacts that only the most pressing of the lot are being discussed so as not to cause widespread panic. On Friday, Jan. 17, Gov. Brown declared a statewide emergency as a result of the lowest rainfall in California’s 163-year history.
“We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” said Gov. Brown who asked Californians to cut their water use by 20 percent. “Hopefully, it will rain sometime, but until then we all have to do our part.”
The impacts on the local multi-billion dollar farming economy will be felt way beyond Tulare County and the Central Valley. Supervisor Allen Ishida, who is a Lindsay citrus rancher, will address some of those impacts at Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting.
The University of California Cooperative Extension in Tulare County is already advising citrus growers how to irrigate with, and plan for, less water. Of course any rainfall whatsoever coupled with no more deep freezes would alleviate the citrus problems to a degree.
The most immediate impact to Three Rivers residents, in addition to the failure of water wells, will be the loss of trees, especially the oaks. This is a good time to inspect all oaks on or nearby your property.
Although native oaks are well adapted to periodic drought, the severity of the latest drought has resulted in the decline and death of many trees. The trees are stressed and many are literally shriveling up from lack of moisture.
When the rainfall pattern changes to drought, strong-looking trees can be rendered susceptible to severe problems: reduced growth, direct injury to root systems, and predisposition to pests and diseases. Branches will break and entire trees will fail.
If a lot of rain comes at once, these weakened trees won’t be able to hold the weight of their water-soaked branches.
Still watering a lawn? It’s time to replace it with an alternative that doesn’t use water or at least reduce water use with drought-resistant natives.