Ojai and Dry - A Special Report
by Lenny Roberts
Drought leaves lasting effects
Lush, green hillsides normally dotted with wildflowers this
time of year have mostly turned brown, and most barrancas and
creeks that should be flowing into the still-dry Ventura River
Despite cold days with overcast skies, Southern California is
in a rainless weather cycle normally associated with the hot
summer months. What this means to the community and its environment
will be examined in this special report.
With just 9.84 inches, Matilija Dam, typically the county's leader
in measurable rainfall, is barely at 40 percent of normal for
the year that began Oct. 1. Only Thousand Oaks, with a scant
5.02 inches of rain through March 24, the last time measurable
rain fell, ranks lower than Ojai's total of 7.12 inches. At 7.8
inches, Oak View and Upper Ojai also rank near the bottom of
the list of reporting stations.
What a difference a year makes. In a 48-hour period ending March
8, 2001, the Casitas Recreational Area received a county-high
11.16 inches, bringing the total for the year to 155.6 percent
Being a coastal valley, Ojai typically receives 20 or more inches
of rain each year. Flood disasters in 1969, 1978, 1980, 1983,
1992, 1995 and 1998 have demonstrated that Ojai is also extremely
vulnerable to flooding. With more than 30 inches recorded at
Matilija Dam last year, it was considered to be a wet year, although
there was minimal flooding reported. This contrasts sharply with
the winter of 1998, when Matilija reported a whopping 54.14 inches
All six valley reporting stations had averaged 241 percent of
normal by March 27 of that year, and massive flooding nearly
wiped out homes in the Siete Robles tract east of town.
By far the most notorious storm - still discussed among longtime
Ojai residents - was the big flood of 1969, when flooding cost
at least one life, destroyed many homes, and washed away two
holes at Soule Park Golf Course. The two heavy storms dropped
up to 30 inches of precipitation over a period of four days.
As recently as two years ago, a relatively dry winter ended with
five straight days of precipitation on March 8, including a rare
dusting of snow, that brought the season's total to near normal.
Any chance at a drier-than-normal year was shattered 40 days
and 40 nights later when a cold, winter-like, violent late-season
storm dumped more than 3.5 inches of rain April 19 and 20.
With no chance of another March miracle - and a shot at April
showers lessening by the day - this may be a warning that the
fire danger may be extremely high during the long, hot summer
that's on the horizon.
conditions fuel fire fears
use up for big customers
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
Back to the news
rain gauges and blue winter and spring skies can mean a long,