We hope readers had an opportunity to check out the time-lapse video on our website of Cachuma Lake responding to recent heavy rains, and slowly filling up. It is breathtaking to watch.
Although heavy winter rains can be a major pain, we also must acknowledge their overall benefit of bringing something we desperately need — water.
It’s easy to overlook the recent years of severe drought conditions when it’s pouring outside, but drought is one of the facts of life in California, and will likely continue to be in all of our lifetimes.
In a timelapse of pictures taken since 2017, by a Cachuma Lake webcam, the reservoir fills to the current level. With rainfall approaching 150…
So, with all that in mind, please take a moment to thank Mother Nature for a bountiful — sometimes brutal, and yet beautiful — winter of rainfall.
The time-lapse sequence we chose starts in 2013, and shows the reservoir edging up at about 70 percent of capacity, thanks to a rainy season that has so far been about 150 percent of normal.
The net result is that two of Santa Barbara County’s reservoirs are full, and storage in two others continues to rise, with one now well above 50 percent but the other — the county’s largest — far behind at less than 20 percent, according to Flood Control District numbers.
The winter rains will have truly far-reaching effects. For Santa Ynez and Lompoc Valley residents it means water released from Bradbury Dam flowing down the river, nourishing the ground-water supply all the way to Lompoc.
Even if we don’t get another winter storm, the runoff from the higher country will continue for weeks to come. Mother Nature’s gift that keeps on giving.
There is another visually compelling effect of a strong winter rainy season, and we’re already beginning to see it — a rich tapestry of wildflower blooms across the state.
State officials are proclaiming another wildflower super bloom, and you could see the very beginnings of it in December when the Anza-Borrego desert exploded with color. The most recent super bloom occurred in 2017, and that was the first since more than two decades ago. Persistent drought takes a toll on just about everyone and everything, including blooming wildflowers.
But not this year. There are fields of hot-pink Bigelow's Monkey Flower, purple Sand Verbena, white and yellow Evening Primrose and those desert lilies. If you are on a trip somewhere, feast you eyes on the bright orange poppies alongside the roads.
Assuming the bugs and more freezing temperatures stay away, we can expect this year’s anticipated super bloom to last well into April, and depending on changing weather patterns, maybe even into May.
You don’t have to travel far to see one of nature’s great shows. You can find Baby Blue Eyes near Zaca Peak. The best Bigelow display, which is usually wrapped around stands of California poppies, will be around Little Pine Mountain. Bladderpod can be found on the Sisquoc Loop. And you can gaze out on vast stretches of Blazing Star on the Carrizo Plains.
But the truth is that if this super bloom pans out, you probably couldn’t escape seeing wildflower displays no matter where you go. And of course, there’s always the flower fields in the Lompoc Valley, which aren’t necessarily wild, but always pleasing to the eye.
And for all this, we can thank Mother Nature and the jet stream, which are primarily responsible for shifting the winter storms our way. Those wet bruisers can inflict a lot of damage, but without them all of us would be back in drought conditions. We’ve been there before, and it’s not a good situation. The wildflowers are better.