Flood, fire, famine – and bat infestations

El Nino’s back – we think.

Remember El Nino? That’s the quirky climatic condition that surfaces every three or four years and is blamed for everything from floods to bat infestations and former president Bill Clinton’s libido.

Peering out from their caves after reading some fresh sheep entrails and engaging in several spirited rounds of liar’s dice, meteorologists from Tukwila to Tughlakabad have almost unanimously declared that El Nino has returned and will soon be doing lots of different stuff in many places.

There is a small holdout group of weather people who believe that we’re actually about to experience La Nina, but most of them have really goofy-looking pocket protectors and hang out at REO Speedwagon concerts.

So what, exactly, are we in for when El Nino blows ashore?

The phenomenon is generally described as an unexpected warming over large areas of the Pacific Ocean which completely jumbles weather conditions everywhere else.

(Except for a small area encompassing Firebaugh, where nothing has happened since 1946.)

El Nino was last believed to have stormed across the United States in 1994 and-or 1997, depending on which meteorologist and-or bartender you’re talking to.

Solano County residents probably best remember the 1982 El Nino event when floodwaters forced hardy Allendale residents to launch every available metal flake ski boat in the area to rescue the rural region’s free-range pit bull population.

Others may remember the 1987 El Nino, when everyone prepared for more floods and, instead, were hit with six years of drought and an unusually large number of South American coastal fish migrating to the waters of Northern California (except, of course, the waters around the aforementioned community of Firebaugh, which doesn’t have a whole helluva lot of beachfront property …).

What can we expect from this latest El Nino prediction?

Probably a lot of rain, unless there’s a drought.

Residents of S’lano County should start patching the bullet holes in their ski boats now, both for emergency pit bull rescue and for the opportunity to hook some whoppin’ big South American tuna in the coastal waters off Davenport.

Not that it’s necessarily going to rain here. Or near Davenport, either. Sometimes El Nino just dances around in the unseasonably warm waters of the Pacific, dries out every inviting hog wallow in Tulare County and then spins off to flood Iowa.

Some forecasters believe that this is exactly what’s going to happen with the 2002-03 El Nino. 

Others believe that this is exactly what’s not going to happen with the 2002-03 El Nino.

As for me, I’d recommend packing up the family and moving to Firebaugh – at least until El Nino’s over. The town’s within easy commute distance of Mendota and you can always tow the old ski boat up to Los Banos for a quick spin around San Luis Reservoir on the weekends.

Really. I wouldn’t steer you wrong, amigos …

Originally published November 10, 2002