Tropical Stormwater Hilary Hits the Southland

Steady rain, thanks to Tropical Storm Hilary, gave Southern California precipitation in August, a month that normally is dry.

Hurricane Hilary which was classified as a Category 4 hurricane, was downgraded to a tropical storm early Sunday morning as it approached the Baja California Peninsula, according to the National Weather Service.

This was the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years.

Mayor Bass said on August 18, “We know the severe impact that weather can have on our communities. I am making sure Los Angeles is prepared on behalf of our residents, including the unhoused Angelenos living on our streets, to get through this storm.”

Some newscasters warned of catastrophic flooding and winds. But by Sunday the storm was downgraded with rain accumulation predicted up to three inches and wind gusts up to 30 mph.

At one point there were warnings that some areas could receive as much rain with Hiliary as they do in a year. Pacific Palisades rainfall season starts on July 1 and runs through June 30 and the annual average in Pacific Palisades is 13.78 inches of rain.

Rain is supposed to fall through early morning before tapering off Monday morning. A flash flood warning was given around 11 a.m. and no travel was advised. CTN will give the total inches from the storm tomorrow.

With warnings of flooding possible, several local residents, including Kim Kedeshian, the owner of K’s Bakery went to Station 23 at 6:30 a.m. and filled sandbags to place by one of the low spots by her entrance. The Los Angeles Fire Department provides free ready-to-fill sandbags year-round. Sandbags can be used to divert water.

Residents were warned to steer clear of downed power lines.

More problematic were areas that might need shoring from slides are areas, such as along Sunset Boulevard between Will Rogers and Amalfi, the Palisades Bowl and Tahatian Terrace Parks along Pacific Coast Highway and the naturally occurring sloughing of land at the Asilomar and Via de las Olas bluffs.

K’s Bakery owner Kim Kedeshian was at Station 23 at 6:30 a.m. to fill some sand bags, which would be used to help divert water away from a door.

CAPTURING AND USING RAINWATER:

In 2018, the Measure W Parcel tax, passed 69.45% to 30.55% in Los Angeles County.  One of its aims was to help the county use to its advantage billions of gallons of water that would otherwise run into the ocean. Voters were told that projects would be aimed at capturing and cleaning stormwater when it falls.

Raising almost $300 million annually, what is the status four years later?

Bruce Reznik, executive director of L.A. Waterkeeper said in a January 2023 L.A. Times story (L.A. Lets Rain Flow into the Pacific Ocean Wasting a Vital Resource. Can We Do Better?) that only about 20 percent of the water will be captured by the county, “In a region that imports 60 % of our water, it’s just a huge untapped potential for a local water supply.

Tom Coleman (former general manager of the Rowland Water District) and Federico Barajas (executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority) wrote in a January 11 Daily News piece (“Water Conservation Is Not Enough”) that agriculture has become part of California’s $3.4 trillion economy.

Water is going to support agriculture, but existing infrastructure that has been damaged such as the San Luis Canal, the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota canal have not been repaired.

There has been no movement to increase water storage systems such as the Sites Reservoir and expand existing reservoirs such as the San Luis Reservoir or the Los Vaqueros Reservoir. “These improvements which have all been decades in development, will capture enough water from extreme rainy seasons to supply over 3.8 million households a year,” Coleman and Barajas write.

They also point out that legislation is needed to streamline permitting for ocean desalination, brackish groundwater treatment and stormwater capture.

“Conservation is not enough to solve this problem,” they say.

POLLUTION IN STORMWATER:

There were 26 RVs and 39 cars parked illegally next to the Ballona Wetlands. Councilmember Traci Park saw that they were removed in July, which prevented this trash from running in the ocean.

In 2004, voters approved Proposition 0 that authorized $500 million in general obligation bonds to clean pollution, trash and bacteria that was going into the ocean.

With rainwater draining to the oceans, it takes all the accumulated trash that has not been cleaned up from encampments. Garbage flows into storm drains that flow directly into the ocean.

Even as dog owners clean up the animals’ feces, so they don’t end up in the ocean, the same is not true of human feces and urine, which has been unchecked in city streets.

In a 2020 story in Sea Grant (“Can We Swim Yet? Guidelines for California Baches After Rain”), “Storm water runoff can pick up bacteria, fertilizers, oil, sewage, and other contaminants on its journey into our oceans and waterways. All that gunk hits the beach in a concentrated mass, before slowly dispersing out into the rest of the ocean. One study out of UC Irvine found that fecal indicator bacteria concentrations were 500% higher than bathing water quality standards following rain events in Southern California.”

It is recommended not to go in the ocean until 72 hours after it rains because of the high bacterial count. . . . but how about the animals that live in the ocean?

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