The Joke Is On Us

For twenty years, we heard the same thing: drought, longer fire seasons, save water. Blah, blah, blah. Last year the state of California had no measurable snow pack for the first time in 160 years, since people started keeping track of those things. The reservoirs were lower than ever.

Then came 2023. The New Year’s Eve storm was the first of nine atmospheric rivers in the next three weeks. Flooding happened in the low lands.  Trees with saturated roots gave way and fell over. Some of the trees landed on houses, cars, and/or people. My neighbors’ hill gave way and slid into the flat part of their yard, taking trees with it. 

Today we await the next atmospheric river, a fire hose of warm moisture that is sure to cause more damage to people and property. Those who had flooding in January are once again placing sandbags around garage doors and driveways in the last two weeks of winter.

Back to the neighbor with the mudslide hill. A few years back, he took all the vegetation off the hill, put in a wine cellar and a low retaining wall. Then he got red mulch from Home Depot or elsewhere and scattered it over black weed-proof plastic that he had attached to the slope.  Each winter the mulch would gravitate down the hill, but winters were low-key, not-much-moisture events.

Then came 2023.  Lake Tahoe has received 50 feet of snow, and there’s more coming.  All those weeds with their roots holding the neighbor’s hill in place had been sprayed with Roundup and were gone.  Erosion Prevention 101 says to have living vegetation on a slope to hold the dirt.  Plus, this neighborhood, built in the mid-seventies, had little-to-zero drainage installed at the time. The people above the hill on a flat cut of land probably had no drainage, so water from their flat yard was seeping into the hill below them. Once the large pine trees started to lean over, it was obvious that the hill was moving.

The unlucky neighbors had their trees removed before they crashed on top of their house. I saw the tree cutter guys working in the rain.  The hill has continued to move and has taken the wire fence, a patio tree, and everything else in its path.  The mud is now dumping into the HOA greenbelt.

My HOA dues have been pretty reasonable up until now.  Who knows if the HOA will have to share in the cost to fix the mess?  It will end up being in the millions. How could it not?

While Mother Nature and Mr. Climate Change chuckle at us, stuck in our old ways of trusting that this winter was going to be another drought one, we come out on the other side, wiser than before.  Climate Change is going to give us rollercoaster weather, not the same-old, same-old we have relied upon in the past.

It’s a wake-up call to get more drainage into our lives. My house is wet underneath. I added drains after I moved here in 2011. It’s time to get some more.

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