It’s Monday. The past 12 months in California were incredibly rainy. Plus, California’s ban on red food dye puts the F.D.A. on the spot.
It wasn’t your imagination: Between the torrent of atmospheric rivers that slammed California over the winter and the more recent downpours from Hurricane Hilary, the past 12 months were among the wettest ever experienced in the Golden State.
California measures its annual rainfall over a water year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 so that the winter rainy season is captured within a single year. (The state typically gets 75 percent of its annual precipitation between November and March, a feature of its Mediterranean-type climate.)
During the most recent water year, which ended two weeks ago, California received 141 percent of its average annual rainfall, according to state data. The state’s snowpack this spring reached the deepest level recorded in at least 40 years.
Overall, the water year ranked as California’s 10th wettest since record-keeping began 128 years ago, according to Dan McEvoy, a researcher with the Western Regional Climate Center.
The rains were even more unusual for some parts of the state. This water year was the seventh wettest for downtown Los Angeles, the fifth wettest for Santa Barbara and the second wettest for Bishop, McEvoy told me.
All that precipitation has replenished California’s lakes and groundwater supplies; the state’s reservoirs are currently at 128 percent of the average for this time of year, according to state data. The bounty was particularly welcome (and surprising) after three years of extreme drought, said Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources.
“This was as close to a miracle year as you can get,” Nemeth said during a news conference this month. It wasn’t only the record rainfall to be thankful for, she said, but that an unusually mild spring and summer had prevented all that snow from melting rapidly and causing extreme flooding, which was a major concern earlier in the year.
The favorable weather has also probably helped quiet California’s fire season. So far, 317,191 acres have burned in California this year, compared with an average of 1.5 million by this point in the past five years. Especially helpful in Southern California were the summer rains from Hurricane Hilary, which brought a reprieve during what would otherwise have been peak fire season.
So what’s in store for the new water year?
State water experts say it’s too early to know for certain whether we’ll have another wet one, or return to drought conditions.
But we do know that the climate phenomenon El Niño arrived over the summer and is expected to continue through the winter, which often means more rain and snow for California. And more likely than not, this year’s El Niño will be a strong one, according to the National Weather Service.
That has state officials preparing flood infrastructure and watching for risks. Last year, levee breaches wreaked serious damage on communities in California.
“There is a lot of flood risk throughout the state,” Gary Lippner, the deputy director for flood management and dam safety with the California Department of Water Resources, said during the conference. He noted that California’s coast in particular did not have extensive flood control systems. “That keeps me awake a little bit at night going into an El Niño year,” he said.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from William Menke, who recommends the impressive Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park:
“Barely two years into living in California, after a lifetime on the East Coast, a friend and I traveled to Mount Lassen and ‘Bumpass Hell,’ which was as awesome as Yellowstone. Also enjoyed the area near Mount Shasta, lava fields and the preserved natural landscapes near and over the Oregon border.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
Today we’re asking about love: not whom you love, but what you love about your corner of California.
Email us a love letter to your California city, neighborhood or region — or to the Golden State as a whole — and we may share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can reach the team at [email protected].
And before you go, some good news
The New York Times Food section recently released the latest in its Where to Eat series, this time paying homage to the many marvels of Los Angeles’s restaurant scene.
The list of 25 restaurants runs the gamut of places big and small and cuisines local, foreign and somewhere in between, from a Malaysian coffee shop to a French bistro. Thai-inspired tacos, Cantonese French toast and matzo margherita pizza are just a few of the many inventive dishes highlighted on the list.
Whether you’re searching for a special occasion, on the hunt for a new local haunt or just curious about the latest culinary happenings in one of the greatest food cities in the world, take a peek at the Food section’s current favorite places to eat.