It’s true that Angelenos have a different relationship with the weather than most Americans. We can picnic, play outdoor sports and leave our lawn furniture out pretty much year-round; we never need to think about getting snow tires and rarely worry about the gutters. Our rain gear is typically more about style than necessity.
But not worry about the weather? Give me a break. We worry about the weather all the time. And not just in a general unchecked-climate-change-will-kill-us-all kind of way. (Though many of us worry about that too.)
When the sun is shining, we worry that drought will lead to dwindling water supplies and all that implies — and not just increasingly insane wildfires. (Have you ever tried to enforce five-minute showers in a household that includes teenage girls with long hair?)
When we get some precipitation, we worry about flooding, mudslides and traffic accidents because, say it with me, people, Angelenos don’t know how to drive in the rain. (If we’re being honest, many don’t know how to drive when it’s not raining either.)
And this year, that worry has gone to the next level, cresting like a tsunami — not a form of weather, but another local anxiety — into full-blown obsession.
First we worried that the rain we hoped for at the end of last year would fail to materialize, that shrinking lakes and dried-up rivers would vanish completely and we’d all have to move to Montana or Colorado, where they have made it very clear they do not want us.
Then, when it began to rain, we worried the weather was just teasing us, that it would shake its rain clouds a bit before moving on to states it liked better. When the skies delivered an “atmospheric river,” we worried (with much justification) about flooding and mudslides.
Then, when the sun came out and the world went into superbloom, we cast our eyes o’er Eden and saw only the spectacle of future dried-out brush that would contribute to more fires when the temperatures rose.
Yes, it looks like Ireland now, but what about in August when everything turns brown and bursts into flame? (For the record, this is a classic example of Irish thinking, so maybe the rain has had cultural implications as well. Has anyone checked in on the pub and poetry scenes?)
And the snowpack, oh the snowpack, what will become of the snowpack? For so long, it was too low, like, scarily, record-breakingly low.
Then, for a minute, it was great, gorgeously record-breakingly high — skiers and snowboarders rejoiced, kids built snowmen and winter felt like winter for once. Hot cocoa all around!
But even for those of us with no more than a view of the local foothills, what was really cool at first became cause for concern. What does the sight of an inch of snow on a palm tree conjure in most people’s imaginations if not the end of the world?
The snow may have eventually turned back to rain at lower elevations, but in the mountains it kept on coming. Suddenly levels were not just high, they were too high. Many living in mountain towns found themselves trapped for weeks.
Still, all that snow would melt, eventually, and solve all our drought-related problems. Right? Well, maybe, maybe not. Continued cooler temperatures could provide the best scenario — a long slow melt. But hang on, suddenly the mercury is rising, and what will that mean? A super-flood meltdown? This very newspaper had back-to-back stories positing each of those possibilities. Why not cover the bases?
Weather is, after all, famously and historically hard to predict, and when Yosemite goes from tiny trickles where once roared mighty waterfalls to waterfalls so mighty the decision is made to close the park, it is very difficult not to worry.
Where once we obsessed about box office, we are all now glued to our weather apps. Is it going to rain again? Is that good or bad? Is it too hot or too cold?
Despite my friend’s snippy comment, I did not move to Los Angeles so I would never have to worry about the weather. But neither did I imagine I would one day be continually applying to it the same emotional investment and anxiety I once reserved for my romantic relationships.
This week, after days of sun and occasional heat (did too much of the snowpack melt? Not enough?), I found myself once again looking through a curtain of rain at my totally trashed hammock and wondering when all this water-soaked madness will end.
With June gloom a month away, I’m pinning my hopes on July.
At which time I can go back to monitoring the melting snowpack and/or the returning drought. Either way, there’s always plenty to worry about.