Posted on | July 7, 2010 | 3 Comments
A January storm sweeps across the northern Pacific on the jet stream and hits Southern California with prodigious amounts of rain, writes Judith Lewis Mernit in the premier issue of Slake. It brings wind, too: bursts up to eighty miles per hour lop the tops off palm trees, waterspouts swirl, and a small tornado lifts catamarans thirty feet in the air. Here in Sun Valley, in the northern reaches of the San Fernando Valley, hail clatters so loudly on the windshield of Mark Hanna’s city-owned sedan that he has to shout over the din.
“Don’t open your window!” A rooster tail wake splashes high over the door handles as Hanna makes a hard right turn around a flooded street corner. We let out a whoop. With the flushed and wholesome look of a man who’s spent half his life outdoors, Hanna, thirty-eight and a civil engineer at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, is the tall, blond, and super-capable guy you’d want piloting your raft on a wicked river trip.
And so we go, navigating roads where ancient streams now wildly reassert themselves, as the falling rain insists on taking historic paths out of the mountains, asphalt be damned. Only an inch of rain will fall today, but in drainage-challenged Sun Valley it’s enough to turn several intersections into turbulent brown lakes by midafternoon.
“The water that you’re looking at would all percolate into the ground if it weren’t paved,” Hanna says. “We wouldn’t even have generated much runoff into the Los Angeles River yet.” The river, when we passed it earlier, was running high, fast, and wild.
To keep reading Lewis Mernit’s piece “To catch a raindrop” in Slake on the lost rain of Los Angeles, you need to buy a copy. The new literary quarterly is available at leading independent bookshops. Click here to find a store.