A friend who works at JPL clued me in to a website hosting live webcams the USGS has installed at real-time stream-gaging sites around the state, which is even cooler than the graphs I showed you in my post Is It Raining Now? The California Water Science Center currently hosts thirteen webcams around the state, including the Ventura River, Malibu Creek, and Arroyo Seco near Pasadena.
You can even control the webcams, selecting from pre-set views or creating your own, and other images are available, like this one showing flood stage flows in the Arroyo Seco.
The prettiest view has got to be San Pedro Creek near Goleta, which shows a lovely waterfall.
Let me know if you’ve found other webcams allowing us to monitor special places in the watershed.
Before the spring wildflowers, our foothill communities may be suffering from mudflows this winter. The USGS just released its assessment based on two scenarios, a gentle, sustained 12-hour rain and a hard 3-hr rain storm. In both of the scenarios, the USGS predicts that Pacoima Canyon, Big Tujunga Canyon, the Arroyo Seco, the West Fork of the San Gabriel River and Devils Canyon would have an 80% risk of mudflows. This risk includes the basins that are tributaries to each of these canyons, too. Our geomorphology works against us here. To quote the USGS report: “The high probabilities from basins burned by the Station fire reflects the combined effects of the steep slopes throughout the area and extensive areas burned at high and moderate severities.” To my surprise, a gentle soaking rain could actually generate more of a hazard than the short duration hard rain, and it looks like the communities of La Crescenta and La Canada Flintridge will suffer the most, potentially. The USGS report suggests that Altadena will be spared mudflow hazards because the major drainages that burned, El Prieto and Millard, drain into the Devil’s Gate Reservoir. Remember, these are the results of modeling and real life experiences will be different. The 28-page report is available on the USGS website. You can also listen to an interview by KPCC’s Larry Mantle with Lucy Jones.
This is the bad news. The good news is that we have this information in advance of the winter rains so people can plan. For an unfortunate few, their homes are reported to be at so much risk they’ve been advised to install plywood on the windows and get out when it rains, according to the article in the Los Angeles Times. The County Flood Control District and Department of Public Works staff are working overtime to reduce the hazards by cleaning out all of the 28 debris basins, including expanding some of them. They have been holding frequent meetings for emergency response personnel in the foothills to plan and coordinate. And they have been meeting with communities and individuals to assess risks and draw up plans for protection. You can learn more at the County’s website.
The San Gabriels are rich in history. One of my favorite stories is about the Brown brothers, Jason and Owen, two of the sons of John Brown the liberator. Owen was the last surviving participant in the raid on Harpers Ferry and with his brother Jason he had homesteaded a place at what is now the top of Rising Hill Road. Owen lived only about five years here before he died suddenly January 8, 1889. His funeral in Pasadena was attended by 2,000 people, and his remains were interred on what is now called “Little Round Top.” You can read more about Owen and Jason Brown in the Altadena Historical Society’s book, Altadena: Between Wilderness and City, by Michele Zack.
Last weekend I spent a lot of time looking at Little Round Top. Because of its proximity to two homes above the Meadows, it was hit repeatedly with fire retardant, and its red slopes stood out. I could only see the hill from below, and I’ve been anxiously wondering about its fate ever since. Now Paul Ayers has sent out before and after photos, and with his permission I am posting the series. The first photo was taken during Owen Brown’s graveside service. The second, taken in 2003, is the contemporary before photo. Finally, Paul sent a photo taken on September 2nd. All three photos were taken from the same vantage point, looking to the west.