It was extremely eerie during the worse part of the storm in Northern California Sunday night as the power in my house flickered on and off every ten minutes. I watched as, just outside the window, the porch furniture was shuffled back and forth across the deck and a weary cypress pine was split down the middle and bent in half. Come 8:45, when I had to take the dog up to the street for her last outing of the day, the wind was ferocious. Frightening. Certainly not safe. I slipped my phone into my pocket in case we were hit by a toppling tree. The rain had let up finally for a spell but wow, what a wind.
Meanwhile, my friend a few blocks away was out in her car texting. They had lost power several hours before and word from PG&E was that it would not be restored until Monday afternoon.
As Brad Johnson writes over at Hill Heat:
California is in a state of emergency, as three people have died, struck by falling trees, in the freak carbon-pollution-driven deluge battering the state. Parts of Los Angeles have seen more than 11 inches of rain, shattering historic records and causing hundreds of mudslides.
Some climate scientists believe it’s time to add Category 6 to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale, now that by burning hundreds of billions of tons of fossil fuels we humans have created cyclones with sustained wind speeds of greater than 192 mph.
The slow moving atmospheric river which swallowed parts of California was strengthened by El Niño and global heating and fueled by thousands of miles of moisture extending through the subtropics. While the winds bore down on Northern California, in the South the problem was mostly mudslides and floods.
On Monday, when I checked out the county’s emergency notifications, I read that friends in my old town of Bolinas were been told to shelter in place and that parts of Highway 1 heading out there were closed due to mudslides and felled trees. My stepdaughter texted me that winds of 100 mph had been clocked in nearby San Geronimo.
Power was still out in much of the county Monday morning. The sun was struggling to slice through the dark grey over cover. The paths my dog and I walked on were littered with leaves and large discarded limbs. Yoga was late as the teacher had to navigate a mudslide on Panoramic Highway and take the long way down from her house on Mt. Tamalpais. The class was nearly empty.
It certainly felt like the morning after a disaster.
Things continued to worsen in Southern California as flash flood warnings remained in effect on Tuesday and rainfall totals continued to rise. Still, experts say that the volume of rain the state is experiencing will not adequately address California’s water shortage.
The Washington Post reports on the lack of infrastructure to manage the vast amounts of water which have inundated the State over the past few years.
Even as dry periods are becoming longer and more severe, climate change is making precipitation events warmer, wetter and more intense — enhancing their destructiveness and making it more difficult for people and ecosystems to capture the rainfall as a buffer against drought.
This conundrum is yet another example of how human-caused warming is intensifying California’s climate of extremes and exacerbating its water challenges.
“When we do get these storm events, they’re going to be bigger and flashier, and we need to be better prepared to capture that water,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the state’s Department of Water Resources.
According to the Orange County Register, the amount of rain in this last system was historical in Southern California.
Sunday and Monday totals amounted to the third-wettest two-day stretch for Los Angeles since records were kept starting in the 1870s, said Ariel Cohen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, in a Tuesday morning update.
“We still have light to moderate rain ongoing across the greater L.A. area,” Cohen said. “Soils are so saturated it will take very little additional rain to increase already flooded areas with more flooding, landslides, mudslides and debris flow.”
While the rain slowed in L.A. County overnight, areas such as Bel Air and the Sepulveda Canyon have seen 12.19 inches and 11.89 inches respectively, over a 48-hour period. Woodland Hills had more than 11 inches on Monday night.
These atmospheric rivers and the erratic weather systems they bring along with them are only going to get worse as temperatures continue to increase.
Tuesday morning we headed to Good Earth one town over but the exit was closed, flooded out by high tides. The next exit was open but backed up onto the freeway as cars maneuvered through deep water. The tide that morning was less than 5’ so the overflow undoubtedly was due to the swelling of the bay with rainwater. There is just no where left for the water to go.
The traffic was so horrendous we decided to just turn around and head home.
This is the new reality, I suppose. High tides will just keep getting higher. Our ways of navigating through the neighborhoods where we live will be challenged. Power outages will become routine and our routines will be altered. It’s already happening. It’s here.
As of this morning, according to Accuweather, the State is facing nearly $11 billion in damages from the storm. Record rainfall and almost 500 mudslides make travel in affected areas impossible and tens of thousands remain without power.
The Climate Emotional Resilience Institute provides lists of resources — books, podcasts, videos, research reports, networks for supporting emotional well being in dealing with climate collapse.
Facing it, a podcast about love, loss, and the natural world
The age of climate crisis is upon us, and grief and anxiety are on the rise. This podcast explores the emotional burden of climate change, and why despair leaves so many people unable to respond to our existential threat. Overcoming that paralysis is the first step in moving to action, and yet official climate strategies rarely address the emotional toll of climate grief and eco anxiety. Meanwhile, frontline communities — particularly people of color, indigenous communities, and other historically-marginalized groups — are experiencing the heaviest mental health impacts of climate disruption and displacement. This series introduces ways to move from despair to action by addressing the psychological roots of our unprecedented ecological loss.
From the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication: The prevalence of Climate Change Psychological Distress among American adults a study on Generalized Anxiety Disorder-2 and climate change related anxiety and depression.
Climate change is increasingly harming mental health. While recent studies have indicated high rates of climate anxiety in various populations – especially young people – validated short measures of climate change-related psychological distress have yet to be developed. Screening tools to identify people who may be experiencing potentially serious levels of psychological distress from climate change can help assess its presence and the need for appropriate interventions.
We modified two previously validated and widely used mental health screening tools – the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-2 instrument (GAD-2) and Patient Health Questionnaire-2 instrument (PHQ-2) – to assess the prevalence of climate change-related anxiety and depression, respectively. Following the practice established in the mental health literature (i.e., PHQ-4), the two modified tools were combined to form a 4-item composite measure to assess overall Climate Change Psychological Distress (CCPD). In the December 2022 Climate Change in the American Mind survey, we used these modified measures to assess the prevalence of climate change-related anxiety (GAD-2 Climate), depression (PHQ-2 Climate), and CCPD among American adults.
The measures included the following questions: “Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems?” (1) Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge because of global warming, (2) Not being able to stop or control worrying about global warming, (3) Little interest or pleasure in doing things because of global warming, and (4) Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless because of global warming. The response options included: 0 = “Not at all,” 1 = “Several days,” 2 = “More than half the days,” and 3 = “Nearly every day.”
We found that 3% of American adults scored above the cutoff on the GAD-2 Climate measure, which suggests they may be experiencing potentially serious levels of anxiety due to climate change. Hispanic/Latino adults are especially likely to be experiencing high levels of climate anxiety (10%) compared to Black Americans (4%) and Whites (2%). Further, Gen Z and Millennials and Gen X are experiencing a higher rate of climate anxiety (5% and 4%, respectively) compared to Baby Boomers and older adults (1%).
Overall, 7% of American adults are experiencing at least mild levels of climate change psychological distress (CCPD). Hispanic/Latino adults (17%) are significantly more likely to be experiencing mild or higher levels of CCPD as compared to Black Americans (5%) and Whites (5%), and they have the highest rate of severe CCPD (3%) compared to all other race/ethnicity, gender, and age cohorts. Gen Z and Millennials (10%) and Gen X (8%) are more likely than Baby Boomers and older generations (3%) to experience at least mild levels of CCPD.
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