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Oakland Tribune from Oakland, California • 13

Oakland Tribunei
Oakland, California
Issue Date:
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my SUNDAY, Apr! 1Z 1998 THE OAKLAND TRI8UNE OVS-13 Araos, el Nino we hope Little relief for victims of storms to survey the Mission Peak slide. Whal we can do is study tt. The Fremont slide Is saturated clay said to be 600 feet wide and as much as 100 feet deep In places. Its movement has slowed but nearby residents are still digging trenches around their property to avoid damage to thetr houses. In Pacifica, owners of 10 homes that must be demolished or removed from an eroding ocean cUCT are wrangling over legal Issues with city officials who have received a Federal Emergency Management Agency pant to build a sea wall to help protect properties from more erosion.

Until the dispute is settled, construction will not begin. Meanwhile, the cliff continues to crumble. Elsewhere, San Leandro residents near a sliding hillside are trying to deckle how to finance their own repairs, which could cost up to $200,000 per house. And In the Sonoma County hamlet of Rio Nklo, where 140 people were displaced by massive landkldes, some, families are being allowed to return to their homes while others are being told they may never get to do so. "There Is still some shifting and movement up there, about (me to three.

Inches a day," said Ernie Mull, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Office of Emergency Services. Tve talked to several who will not return. They i just dont want hr put up with the flooding or this type of situation. Some of them maybe have found better By Demis J.OIvar STMFVMniR When Paul Sosnick built his dream home on Geranium Place in die Oak-land hills 36 years ago, he built It to last It was where he would raise two children, where he eventually became a widower. It'later became the place where he planned to enjoy his retirement between pleasure cruises with his companion of 10 years, Judith King.

Seven years ago, he had a 25-year roof installed. 1 Today. Sosnick Is packing a lifetime of memories Into boxes and preparing to tear the house down, a victim of an El Nlmupawned lanririfcte dud has already destroyed the homes of two UUIMA.OM-SM Paul Sosnick, 75, designed his Oakland home and lived here for 15 years. He and his wife were In the process of selling It when the hid behind them started sliding and pushing their home qff Its foundation. of recent health problems, Sosnick and King already had figured on moving.

But the slide Is forcing them out with no hope of selling. Into a smaller house In San Leandro that comes with a mortgage. 1 built this house, and I love this house, said Sosnick, now 75 and recovering from open heart surgery. "If I Could move it to someplace else, I would." The still-creeping slide has taken more than a financial toll. "Even though we were going to sell die house, we at least knew it would slide-ravaged Northern California.

From the slowly eroding cliffs along Esplanade Drive in Pacifica to the creeping hillsides of Mission Peak above Fremont, the earth movements, caused by this winter's record-breaking rains are expected to continue long after the skies remain clear more than a few consecutive days. still be here," said King, who Is 77. At night the two can hear the house creaking and cracking as the land below It slips and buckles each They should be out sometime next month. Their plight offers a stark snapshot of how the months-long pounding of El Nino storms maintains Its grip on Unfortunately, say those whose Job It Is to deal with such matters there Is little or nothing to be done to prevent more damage, don't think you can go In and stop It even If you gave me 910 million and said, 'Here, go stop It' Its out of our control, said Dr. J.

David a geologist hired by the city of Fremont existing slides may continue to move for months, there Is also the prospect of new slides. We're kind of hanging on saying OK. what do we do next? said Dave Fischer, another resident of Geranium Place. It's not a good feeling at alL" Nino: Landslides still on the move despite rains respite Continued from NEWS-1 Around the world in Ninos wake ByOrnfa JLOIvsr staff warns As horrific, as the flash floods and landslides have been, the fury El Nino sprung on Northern Call-. fornia fills year does not match what tt unleashed elsewhere around the world.

A trail of destruction circles the globe at the equator In the wake of El Nino's extreme storms and Workers from RMT landscape In San Leandro cover a hillside In the Bay-O-Vista district In February. The plastic prevents more rain water from saturating the soil. Latest forecast technology In some cases, flash, floods were predicted as much as eight hours In advance, partly bey cause the agency used "hurricane hunter" aircraft to fly into storms as they roared ashore from the Pacific for close counters with the rain poised to drop from the clouds. The aircraft brings highly sophisticated monitoring equipment inside the storm, making the measurements taken for day-to-day forecasting as accurate as possible. This winter marked the first time such equipment normally stationed in the Gulf of Mexico during the summer hurricane season had been used on the West Coast.

As a result tithe plane's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of-. flclals plan to ask that $2 million be budgeted In 2000 to bring the storm planes back to the West Coast regularly, Hoffman said. Still, the forecasts were not perfect Hoffman acknowledged. Several times In February, for. example, forecasters predicted heavy rains when only mild storms moved through.

"It was because we were get- -ting one storm after another throwing four or five Inches at us, and then we'd get one at the end of the series that wasn't as powerful. The forecasters had a tendency to go. wet wet wet anyway, It happened about three or four times during the winter," Hoffman said. El Nino not worst storm As much as El Nino was hyped as something to dread, the damage It actually caused does not measure up dollar-for-dollar to that done by the floods that plagued California In 1995 and 1997. This year's storms caused more than $500 million damage statewide to public and private property, compared to about $1.8 billion in each of the other two years.

But El Nino was Indeed deadly. This winter's official storm death toll was 17, compared with eight In last year's floods and two dozen In the El Nino storms of 1982-83. Because El Nino's toll mounted over several months, however, It seemed more ominous there was no way to predict for certain when a hillside would slide or a tree fall on a passing car. The disaster struck arbitrarily, in different spots. Had there not been a good advance warning of El Nino, the consequences would have been worse, Eisner said.

"The most valuable thing we had was the advance warning from the weather service," said Eisner. It was a broad warning and It was couched In uncertainties and probabilities, but it gave us a heads-up that something was going to happen." Tor us, El Nino Is continuing. The ground Is still saturated." Instead of taking a breather from the unusually wet winter, Eisner said Californians still should watch for signs of slow moving and. destructive slides, keep river levees In good. enough shape to handle floods and prepare for fires by clearing vegetation around homes.

Slides continue to be the Immediate concern. Although the rains have stopped, the slopes continue to move," said Philip Grubstick, engineering services manager for the city of Oakland, where a dozen homes were declared uninhabitable this winter because of tildes. Any incremental amount of rain could trigger more slides." EWIino, the little understood ocean warming phenomenon that throws weather patterns around the world Into chaos seven years or so, also Is certain to continue taking its toll on wildlife as It winds down; For example, sea lion pups born this spring may have a tough time surviving because the fish they normally would eat cant live in the abnormally warm Pacific Ocean waters off the California coast. Those waters are still as much as 3 degrees above normal, and the food shortage has already taxed marine mammals. Then theres La Nina, El -Ninos lesser-known There Is a chance La Nina may visit hi the winter of 2000, said U.S.

Climate Prediction Center meteorologist Vernon Kousky. La Nina Is the opposite of El Nino because Its. effect of turning Pacific waters unusually cold results In weak storms. That could produce a drought in California because weather generated from the tropical Pacific yields most of the state's, water supply. Tor the next six to nine months, all we're going to be seeing Is a gradual returning to normal in the tropical Pacific, Kousky said.

Then well be able to tell If La Nina Is coming Prepared for ths onslaught Because National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists last May warned the world of El Nino's coming crews had eight to prepare for the torrents unleashed on California in February. Local governments stockpiled sandbags and other supplies, while weather forecasters made sure lines of communication were set to get warnings out when a potential disaster might be brewing on the Pacific. The El Nino wallops not only gave the Bay Area the wettest winter recorded this century, but also tested National Weather Service forecasters' abilities to predict where the heaviest rains On the (by side, the most severe drought In 50 years has sparked huge conflagrations in Indo-, nesla. where more than 1 million acres of forest have burned. Drought-induced fires also have swept across the northern Am-' azon In Brazil and blackened vast portions of Mexico's mountainous i A lack of rain runoff has lowered water In the lakes and rivers that feed the 50-mile-long Panama Canal so much that ship traffic has been restricted for the first time since 1963 to prevent the vessels from running aground 1 On file wet side, killer floods have ravaged portions of Somalia, Kenya and southern Ethiopia, and typhoons have swept over portions of Japan.

In the United States, heavy rains have substantially damaged ground crops -'like strawberries In Florida and early peach crops in South Carolina. And In Ecuador and Peru, torrential rains have Skilled hundreds of people and significantly altered the landscape. "In some of these areas, they are going to feel the after-effects of this El Nino for some time to come," said Vernon Kousky, a meteorologist for the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in Washington, D.C. "The realty strong Impacts like these are generally felt In the tropics, so If you follow file equatorial band you win see where file weather has been most severe." In Peru, which weather officials and -scientists studying the weather phenomenon have dubbed ground zero" for El Nino storms, Pacific downpours have wreaked $1 billion worth of damage to crops and resulted In more than 200 deaths.

The warmer water, also has bleached coral reefs around the world, stripping them of their vibrant color and killing off sea life that normally thrives around them. -j UJjmL jkMAuaA wore craws excavate sinkhole that opened up Feb. 2 at TOO NlWMO tlon of Davis and Doolittle In San Leandro. MOTTSUMNCS -A. would fall from day to day.

Ac-, monitoring equipment' per-curate forecasts are vital for Is- formed their task exceptionally-suing public safety warnings. well. curacy rate. We did extremely well on forecasting these events." said Norm Hoffman, meteorologist In charge of the weatW office in Monterey, which pro rides forecasts for the Bay A government report to be completed by the end of this month will show that Bay Area forecasters, aided by advanced For example, the National Weather Service predicted. El Nino flash floods In Northern California with a 92 percent ac-.

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