Thursday, January 14, 2016

Preparing for the worst

Hermosa Beach is battening down the hatches in anticipation of some El Nino storms and heavy rain. Free sandbags (10 per household) are being given away at City Hall, and the gateways in the low wall that runs along the beach have been bolstered with heaps of sand. We are advised to keep the petrol tank at least half full, and to make sure we are stocked with enough food and water to keep us going for a few days. So far we have survived a couple of days of intermittent rain, but apparently there is more to come.
Lady P doesn't mean it, of course: the thrill of her life is a rare rainy day

At the risk of sounding complacent, I don't think we have too much to worry about. Our house is on the crest of a hill and elevated from the road, so someone else is welcome to our ration of sandbags. We have - as always - enough food to keep an army marching for at least a week. And if the town is flooded so badly the gas stations are shut, I won't want to drive anywhere, so I am not worried if the needle on the gas tank dips below halfway.

Perhaps some of this complacency also stems from a sneaking suspicion that the people of Southern California overreact somewhat to bad weather. Playtime outside is cancelled at Lady P's preschool when it's raining - a shame as it's not often she gets to wear her favourite red wellies and her cute little rain coat. Loved ones (who shall remain nameless) say things like 'Are you sure we should go, in this weather?' even if where we're going involves getting into our car inside our (weatherproof) garage, driving a couple of miles, and walking 20 feet into a (weatherproof) restaurant. People drive inexplicably slowly, as if through a blizzard. The big joke at the gym is when the coach says 'Okay, go warm up with a 400m run... Ha! Just kidding! I'd never make you run outside in this weather!' because it drizzled a bit earlier in the day. And then I see footage of the Cumbrian town my sister lives in, flooded again, and everybody just going about their business and getting on with it and can't help but roll my eyes a little at the softies of SoCal.

It's probably not just people being soft, to be fair. This town is not really built for wet, cold weather. Lots of people keep a lot of stuff outside - toys, cushions on their deck furniture - all year round. Many of us don't have much clothing to straddle the gap between beachwear, and full on ski gear. Half the seats at half the restaurants in town are on outdoor patios - currently blasted with heatlamps to recreate that balmy feel that comes naturally the other 9 months of the year.

I do know, that El Nino is an actual phenomenon. And one which has caused carnage in many places, in other years. And while I teased the apparent overreaction to Hurricane Irene in Manhattan, I know Sandy more than vindicated that response. But in this city of high drama and easy living, I suppose I'm just hoping it will be a few days of the kind of weather Yorkshire people describe as 'spring showers', and that sandbags and emergency supplies will be left unused.

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