• U.S.

Nation Notes: Disasters

1 minute read

For bone-dry Southern California, the rains that began Feb. 5 at first provided a welcome respite from a six-year-long drought. But last week the storms suddenly became too much of a good thing. Fifteen inches has fallen, drowning cars, streets and houses under rivers of water. At least eight people died, including a Ventura County man and his pregnant wife who were buried by a wave of mud.

The storms took residents and officials by surprise. The National Weather Service’s Southern California office did not issue its first flood warning until after TV news accounts had already shown people being rescued from flooded highways. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers said its inexperienced workers were slow to alert city disaster officials.

Worse yet, the rain fell too far south to replenish the state’s reservoirs, which now hold only about one-third the normal amount of water. The federal Bureau of Reclamation, California’s largest water supplier, said it would halt deliveries to farms in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, threatening crops in two of the nation’s richest agricultural areas.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com