By John Antczak, with additional reporting by Amanda Lee Myers
3 March 2016
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Ed Heinlein surveys the steep mountainside that has repeatedly unleashed tons of mud into the backyard of his Southern California home since a 2014 wildfire and still hopes the drought-stricken state gets more rain.
"We have to have the rain," said Heinlein, whose home east of Los Angeles has become a poster child for the region's cycle of fire and flood. "It's bad for us but it's desperate for the state."
Residents had hoped that El Niño would drench California with enough water to end the drought that is now in its fifth year.
But so far, the periodic ocean-warming phenomenon has left much of the state in the dust, delivering a few quick storms but not yet bringing the legendary rain linked to past El Niños.
Winter, especially in the southern half of the state, has been dry with summerlike heat suitable for a day at the beach or patio dining.
The National Weather Service says last month was the warmest February in San Diego since record-keeping began in 1875, In Los Angeles it was the second-warmest on the books.
Temperatures hit 80 degrees or higher on 11 days during the month in downtown Los Angeles.
Lack of precipitation has been similarly extreme: Only .79 inch fell downtown, just 21 percent of February's normal 3.8 inches. Since Oct. 1 only 4.99 inches have fallen, nearly 6 inches less than the 10.96 inches normally accumulated by this time.
Rain and snowfall in the weeks ahead would have to be extensive to make up lost ground and ease the drought — even with the current forecast of a series of early March storms heading directly toward California. [more]