Recently, January weather in the Sierra has experienced a swing in the pendulum. Locals refer to it as “Juneuary”—another weather extreme of sunny weeks with fairly warm afternoons. The intensity of the sun has already melted or evaporated over half of the many feet of snow that fell in December. One of the primary issues of intense weather events that is commonly misunderstood are these pendulum swings. We may get many feet of snow at one time, but with sunny warm weeks following those storms, sometimes we are left with less snowpack than years with less overall totals. The other concern is rain on snow events, where large amounts of snow fall and then temperatures become warmer, and the following storms turn to rain. These rain on snow events can cause serious flooding in certain areas of the Sierra.
Challenges that derive from extreme weather events are not unique to the Sierra. Throughout 2021, we witnessed severe weather storms and power outages in Texas, power outages in England, tornadoes in Kansas, and ice storms in Kentucky. These are just a few examples that took place in the last year of how extreme weather events (other than fire) have impacted communities’ infrastructure (power grid, roads, bridges, homes, businesses, etc.) costing millions to billions of dollars.
The climate emergency is already here, it is not something to be speculated anymore, and people are paying for the aftermath. The 2017’s Central Sierra outage costs were estimated at a few million, and the 2021 outage will be similar. Region wide outages require a number of extra contractors, trucks, and equipment to assist with capacity. All these extra costs are motivated by restoring power as quickly as possible to return living essentials (heat, water, etc). The result of these costs eventually impact the communities. As a direct result of climate change and disaster events (ie. wildfire), power companies have been increasing their rates. Some local power companies’ have increased their rates 40% or more to help mitigate the damage costs. As these disasters become more frequent and more severe, the impacts on our livelihoods are only going to become more taxing unless we as a community make serious changes to become a more resilient region.