It's late afternoon on a winter saturday in the west end of Los Angeles
. The sky is gray
. It isnt the solid green-gray of a midwestern thunderstorm
or the muted, whitish gray of a high sierra blizzard
. It's a hesitant gray, the color of a storm deciding whether it should relinquish rain on an arid land. The wind is blowing from the southwest
. Wind from the southeast brings storms, while wind from the nortwest or northeast brings dry winds. Winds from the southwest are ... undecided
The national weather service has declared that it will rain. The swirl of clouds to the north looks insistant. But anyone in southern California can tell you that a storm can die off the coast, dumping inches of rain on Santa Barbara but bringing nothing to the parched LA hills. So the air lies waiting. And i sit, waiting. Waiting for my friends to call. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for so much as a stir in the wind. But there is nothing. Nothing but a gray sky.
Then it happens. On the radar screen, a line of yellow drapes down the coast, west of Santa Barbara. It is alligned in waves, with the points towards the west and the long bows towards the east. Meteorologists would call these 'bow echos'. The east-pointing curves are indicative of gusty winds, and in climates prone to violent weather, the west-facing points are prone to tornados. But this is Southern California, so they offer only more rain. As the sun sets, the line moves towards the east, towards the city.
As i am waiting, i do little in the next few hours but watch the sky. Clouds flit by, promisingly, but leave as soon as they appear. The sun sets, and as darkness falls, the clouds change from the white of day to the orange of night streetlights. Still i wait. Finally, the band is just offshore, flecks of yellow on the radar screen.
at the last minute, the line breaks. the yellow-colored rain shoots north, the lighter green shoots south. Torrance receives nothing but a light drizzle. Still, the dying front offers a gust of wind to prove that it is not dead. Although the rain has fizzled, the cold of the new air mass is still obvious. The drizzle swirls in the wind like sand in a desert dust devil. Yet another storm has narrowly missed this place.
Up north, in Northern California, the site of my past life, it is pouring. Flood warnings are being issued on all the major rivers as inches of rain dump down. Even five miles away from me, in downtown Los Angeles, friends report to me that a downpour has arrived. My location receives nothing but drizzle. But that's okay. It's just one storm and early rains have already painted the hills green. And it's just the start of the rainy season, really. The solstice has passed, and with it a year which i need to finally leave behind. As i step outside, i can smell rain in the air. it will come.