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By Tim Hunt

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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Pineapple Express memories

Uploaded: Dec 16, 2014
Last week's torrential rainfall supplied by the "Pineapple Express" from the Hawaiian Islands recalled two previous atmospheric rivers that caught my family on ski trips to South Lake Tahoe.
An aside: it is rather ironic that the nickname for this moisture-laden warm storms is "pineapple" when there is precious little pineapple still grown in the Hawaiian Islands. Check the source of a pineapple in the supermarket and it's likely that it was grown in Central America.
The first incident took place in 1986 when my wife and her dad went to our timeshare on Friday, while our exchange student and I planned to join them on Saturday after I returned from a business trip to Southern California. We took off in the afternoon for South Shore and got as far as Placerville before we were turned back because storms dropping down from the artic had dumped feet of snow and closed the Echo Summit on Highway 50.
We spent the night in Sacramento and then drove in Sunday morning before the Pineapple Express arrived and started dumping copious rainfall at lake-level. With storm drains clogged by the earlier snow, street flooding was common—I remember stepping into almost a foot of water.
With my wife due back at school Tuesday and Highway 50 closed over Echo Summit, she and her dad took off for Reno and planned to head back on I-80. By the time they got to Reno, it was closed by a rock slide so on Tuesday they headed south on I-395.
Meanwhile Tuesday morning, we took a look at the weather radar and saw nothing but green as far west it covered. When we heard that 50 had re-opened to escorted traffic, we checked out, got in the car and headed home. It was a race between riding flood waters and a question of whether flooding would be worse on Highway 5 down in the south Delta when the San Joaquin River was raging. We made it home in less than four hours.
My wife and her dad, who had come across Highway 58 down by Bakersfield, rolled in about eight hours later, a trip that took about 40 hours including the night spent in Reno.
Ten years later, we checked into that same timeshare on Christmas Day, planning to spend a week skiing. A Pineapple Express came roaring it and I remember spending lots of time in the heated pool and spa and no time on the mountain.
When it came time to depart, Highway 50 was closed with no timeline for re-opening so we headed north for Truckee around the east side of the lake. It took us eight hours to get to Interstate 80 because it was literally bumper-to-bumper stopped traffic from before Incline Village all the way to downtown Truckee where the intersection of 267 in downtown Truckee determined the traffic flow.
It was clear sailing once we finally got to I-80, but there was severe flooding in the Manteca/Stockton area again.
Bottom line: We can thank God for the torrential rains and for a break that allowed the creeks and rivers to return a bit more to normal before the colder storms blew in this week. For a quick and readily understandable look at how important rains and snowpack are to the Livermore Valley, stop at Shadow Cliffs and see how much lower the groundwater table is than normal. Zone 7 routinely replenishes the groundwater with water imported from the Delta—the source of 80 percent of our water in a normal year.

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