atmospheric river / bomb cyclone

010123 tree carport sm

Before we return to the sketches of summer 2022, here’s 2023 so far. Here in California we are going through some of the worst wave of storms I’ve seen since coming here, knocking down more trees than I’ve experienced before (in my life that would be since the Great Storm of 1987 in the south of England, the Michael Fish Not-a-Hurricane). We knew the ‘Atmospheric River / Bomb Cyclone’ was incoming, but weren’t expecting it to cause so much damage. Atmospheric River and Bomb Cyclone sound like two flavours of anti-perspirant spray, or maybe a double A-side twelve inch from a 1980s dance group. With all these trees down I wasn’t not sure whether to call it ‘Arbor-gedden’ or ‘Arbor-calypse’. The situation has been pretty serious though.. The first biggie was on New Year’s Eve. It was pouring with rain and the wind was picking up, but we weren’t going anywhere, just played some board games and ate a nice roast dinner, and then noticed that the internet had gone down. We watched a movie saved on the iPad (the new Pinocchio, funnily enough) We could hear some big crashes not far away, but couldn’t tell what that was, maybe a big tree limb had snapped off. Just before midnight, the rain and wind had stopped revealing a bright starry sky. My son and I took a little walk around the neighbourhood and saw some trees had come down, but turning back towards our road the lights were out, but we could just about make out that a big tree had fallen and totally crushed the carport opposite. That’s it above, as seen first thing next morning. The car was just missed. Then walking away from that we nearly walked right into a huge tree that blocked the entire street, twice as big as the other fallen tree, and that had taken out the street lamp too. We found a way around and went back home. Power was out through much of Davis, but we were ok. The next morning I saw that the huge tree that came down had also totally flattened a car and pulled up the pipes from beneath the street, right outside our neighbour’s house. The sound of chainsaws had started at about 2am, before crews even made it out, there were neighbours just cutting away branches so that people could get past. Another enormous tree came down on top of all our mailboxes (that stopped the junk mail for a few days). I walked around, and saw that trees were down everywhere, a huge one already cleared from the main road, plus one house which had two trees fall on it, one damaging the roof and another crushing a car (I know the owner actually; he told me that they heard the first tree come down and went out to see, and only narrowly missed getting hit by the second tree which took out the car – so very, very lucky). This was just in our few blocks, trees were down everywhere. I’ve seen a lot of trees fall in Davis, but never this many all at once.

fallen tree outside MSB 010423

It took a while for the internet to come back on at home but I went into work a few days later, to find that the massive tree in front of our building had fallen too. Other trees have gone down outside the Math Sciences Building over the years but this was the biggest, a huge pine I think it was, and the roots had pulled up the sidewalk too. Crews have been out there ever since with chainsaws and shredding machines pulling it all apart, the the huge stump is still on its side and roped off. Several other trees around the building have had large parts come off. In front of Mrak Hall, two historic trees, oaks I think, fell on the main path. I walked through part of the Arboretum, mindful about loose branches, and saw one of the big Redwoods in the old Redwood Grove had fallen too. A lot of old trees fell on New Years Eve, a lot of history (and some much-needed shade) went with it; it made me feel sad. However, we were told that this was only a taster, that the really big storm was coming on Wednesday evening, with the worst hitting on Thursday afternoon. I got a little bit drenched cycling in on Thursday morning, but by about lunchtime it was another calm lull. In the early afternoon however I could see from my fourth floor office window a long black line against the sky, ominously stretching from north to south, moving fast in our direction. By the time it reached Davis, it was like we were suddenly engulfed in a giant grey wave, with the view from my window being a wall of water across the city. I had to quickly sketch while watching this deluge.

rainy view from MSB 010523

Thankfully the storm didn’t bring quite as much damage to our area as on New Year’s Eve, but still caused chaos around the state, and there have been big floods already with the region on high alert for more. There was another lull on Friday, and then on Saturday night (last night) the next wave hit, and boy was there some wind. It reached around 65 mph here, and I was pretty nervous watching as best I could from my bedroom window, as the silhouettes of large trees dancing around like jelly against a sky illuminated by flashes of lightning, to the constant pounding drone of the winds. The one tree that is right outside my window was giving it all that, mouthing off and getting lary, but by sunrise the tree had sobered up and acting as if nothing had happened. I took another walk this morning to survey the damage around our part of Davis, and while there were some big branches down and at least one tree it didn’t seem quite as bad, but I can’t speak for the rest of town and the news showed that midtown Sacramento got pretty badly hit. Our electricity was on, unlike for much of town after some power lines went down, but the internet was out. I cycled down to campus during today’s lull to check that power was on in our building, thankfully all ok (first day of the quarter starts tomorrow!), but didn’t sketch anything. All along each street there are piles of branches, and chopped up tree trunks, or the scars of where they crashed.  Last night was pretty scary, but the news is telling us the next wave of this Atmospheric River will hit tonight, the winds of the Pacific stretching out its long arm to give us another clobbering, and this one will be even worse than last night? It’s nature’s way, sure. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be ok. I’d say ‘touch wood’ but frankly I want to keep as far away from any wood as possible…