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Weather? What kind?

The Spirit of Tehachapi


I often hear people say, "It's never been this hot before!" Later, "It's never been this cold before!" Don't forget to mention, "We've never had such a dry year before!" or "We've never had this much rain before." Actually, the only answer to that is, "Yes, we have."

This past year, however, has been a real pain to those who mourn the lack of moisture of any kind. A couple of rains and a spitting of snow and we're back to "sunny days ahead" Sunny California is certainly earning its name. January and we're still waiting for winter. Oh well, it's still my home state and I love her.

When volunteering at the local museum one afternoon a young man came in and asked me if it was true that Tehachapi used to have much harsher, colder winters in years past. He was nineteen years old and a native Tehachapian (I think that's a word). I showed him a book that doesn't sell too well by a local author, yours truly, which contained a precipitation record for Tehachapi listing years from 1877 to 1995.

The lowest moisture (rain, snow, hail, sleet) on that 118 year chart was 3.70 inches in 1898 - 99 and the highest was 26.89 inches in 1982-83. I can't vouch for the dry year in 1898-99 but in 1982 Brite's Creek, that runs through Old Town and under Old Town Road as well as Woodford-Tehachapi Road, flew into a temper and sent its waters to wash out the roadbed as it passed underneath the two roads. The pavement was still there but the land was taken out beneath. Living where we do requires passage to town on those roads, and we had to make our way over to Highway 202 on the part of Old Town Road that was not affected. It took a couple of weeks before the roads were repaired.

My husband said a battalion of Marines could have fixed it in a day. I would presume he meant "passable" and not paved.

Semper Fi!

Other areas had problems too, such as Wells Elementary that had water standing in the halls. The lake in Golden Hills was full, the one in Monolith the same. Dry stream beds were renewing their paths and people saved on their water bills and let the rain take over their lawns. Tehachapi had great wildflowers for the next few years until 1986-87 when mother nature turned off the faucet and only let us have 8 inches. So, if someone said, "We've never had such a wet year before." they'd have been correct that time.

When we moved to a farm in Tehachapi from Mojave in October 1937 my brother and I were thrilled with the fall weather. We woke up to snow frequently and rainfall was even exciting to behold as our desert home - Mojave - boasted mostly of wind and dry hot days in summer and windy, dry cold days in winter. Still, since I was born there I manage to hold an affection for the dusty little community. Tehachapi's winter with a precipitation chart for that year, snowing over fifteen inches, kept us happy. Not so for my father driving to work, my sister worrying her boyfriend might not be able to pick her up for their date, and my eldest brother knowing that the same boyfriend driving my sister home after their date was sure to get his little Dodge coupe stuck on our one quarter mile muddy lane leading to our house. The only solution was for brother dear to crank up our Fordson tractor and pull him out of the mud usually about eleven in the evening. None of those trials bothered me. I surely loved the snow...then. I can take it or leave it when it comes to driving.

The year 1931 brought over sixteen inches of precipitation and in August of that year a cloudburst brought water down what is now Willow Springs Road washing away a house belonging to Jim Davis. They knew the water was getting higher and were heading for safer ground when Mrs. Davis went back for her cat and the water took her away. Since our family name was Davis, people thought it my mother who had drowned. For many years after that, even though the house had washed away, there were fruit trees that still survived on the site where the house had stood.

The next year, 1932, in September, we had heavy rains for several days. Of course, Tehachapi, being at the top of the mountain, made the water drain down Tehachapi creek towards Keene. Dorothy Banducci Perry told me the water running down Curry Street carried full boxes of pears from Bisbee's Pear Orchard. Debris followed along with the water creating a natural dam in Tehachapi Creek for awhile. When it did break loose it washed a Santa Fe steam engine off the track burying it in mud. It also destroyed a café where some people were waiting out the storm, killing some thirty folks.

In 1939, we had a hot, dry summer even though the rainfall and snow were pretty average. Perhaps the hot summer had nothing to do with it but a grasshopper plague hit the Tehachapi Valley that ate crops, wildflowers and anything else in their way. They lingered for many months and then left as suddenly as they had come. However, in 1978, nearly forty years later they made a return engagement and feasted on our vegetable garden and the rest of the valley.

1945 brought nearly fifteen inches of rainfall and snow causing a grand river to flow down Tehachapi Boulevard closing the highway and doing road damage. It seems that Tehachapi dwells on a pattern: either too little or too much.

We talk of plagues of grasshoppers but one year, about the early 1980s, we had a "plague" of tumbleweeds come into town on a high wind. Hundreds upon hundreds of them covered D Street, the city park, and most of the south side of town. It took the city some time to clear them away. It was a fantastic sight and one could not imagine from whence they came. It was like a biblical plague.

1952, the year of the earthquake, brought almost 17 inches of precipitation and there was much snow. My husband was in Korea so I came home with my baby to live with my parents for a year. By that time, the blanket of snow, though it caused the countryside to look like a Currier and Ives setting, made me fearful of slick roads.

After looking at the 118 year chart of precipitation listed in my book, I can truthfully say that the "old days" and the "nowadays" seem to have a very consistent pattern of a little too much or not quite enough. Pretty good place to live, though. I'll just stop complaining and get on with my life.


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