January 23, 2014

Drought in California


Shelby: So, here in New York City, it is freezing cold. And in Southern California, it is nice and sunny. In fact, it is too sunny. And all that sunshine, believe it or not, is actually hurting the state. Tom Hanson tells us why.

Vince Vasquez: I’d say under attack is a good way to put it.

Tom: Vince Vasquez can’t catch a break. Last winter, frost killed 500 of his avocado trees. And last week, a wildfire fueled by drought ravaged his property, coming within 10 feet of his crops. As helicopters dropped water from above, Vasquez’s family protected their trees on the ground.

Vasquez: It is not a pretty sight. I’m in shock still, just to see the mountain that I’ve grown up my whole life – all vegetative my entire life – and now it looks like a dry desert. It’s going to be a tough road ahead of us.

Tom: 2013 was the driest year on record for California, causing the leaves on these trees right here to brown. That is because there isn’t any rain washing salt out of the soil.

And the forecast is grim. California Governor Jerry Brown recently declared a drought state of emergency. Southern California hasn’t had a drop of rain all month. Rainfall in Los Angeles last year was the lowest in over 100 years. Captain Brendan Ripley is a fire behavior analyst. He says the brush is becoming dryer and dryer even though this is supposed to be the wettest time of all year. And these factors all put together, simply put, fan the flames. For avocado farmers like Vasquez, that is not good news.

California grows about 90% of the nation’s avocados and it is a $435 million industry. But all of the state’s avocado producing regions have been declared natural disaster areas due to the drought. It is so severe, all some communities can do is pray. The people at this mosque in Southern California are literally praying for rain. And for the time being, those prayers unanswered.

It is so warm, Vasquez’s 4,700 trees think it is already spring. And any winter freeze could completely wipe out his crops.

His farm has been in his family for four generations and Vasquez is determined not to be the last, even if that road ahead is long and dry.

Tom Hanson, Channel One News.

Shelby: So what is causing California’s drought? Scientists will be looking into whether or not climate change is to blame.


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