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Climate and Environment

Storm After Storm Sucks, And We’re Kinda Done With It. But LA Rain Can Also Bring Wonder

Rain slicked sidewalks have one pedestrian carrying an orange unbrella in front of Griffith observatory.
A person walks in the rain at Griffith Observatory on Feb. 24.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)
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Let’s face it, Southern California and sunshine are the “it couple" of the century, providing us with warmth and feelings of happiness. But if there was a tabloid writing about them right now, its front page would be full of breakup rumors. Come Tuesday night, yet another storm will replace our hopes of sunshine, creating more frustration toward mother nature.

Normally, we’re graced with clear skies and warm temperatures. Your camera roll is no doubt full of photos of those gorgeous orange and pink sunsets, and anything below the mid-60s feels way too cold. The sun and warmth are icons here in their own right, and have inspired dozens of songs. The warm rays are even baked into our official state anthem:

"....And I know when I die/ I shall breathe my last sigh/ For my sunny California!"
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But since December, we’ve been looking more like Forks, Washington from Twilight than the sunny haven we’re known to be.

Has the rain been too much?

A gray-toned photo of the L.A. river and a bridge. The skies are filled with dark clouds in the daytime and water is moving down the river.
The L.A. River flowing below the 4th street bridge after the storm on Thursday, January 5th, 2023.
(Samanta Helou Hernandez

The two things you can count on #LATwitter for are earthquake updates and complaints about the rain. And oh boy, is the desire for the rain to stop high on the list.

Chhaya Néné, a journalist and actress who lives in North Hollywood, is very familiar with rain after growing up in northern Virginia. California’s warm weather and opportunity is part of the “beautiful combination” of things that drew her to Los Angeles years ago.

“I do think it affects your mood a lot when you’re in bright and happy places. It feels good,” Néné said. “But the rain has been hard. Can we have some consistency here?”

The rain has been hard. Can we have some consistency here?
— Chhaya Néné

She knows the rain is important for our dry environment, but part of her issue with it is that L.A.’s infrastructure doesn’t keep up. When it pours, potholes pop up by the thousands, and flooding and mudslides can easily put neighborhoods in peril. And when we have so many storms, we stay at home more often.

“I think there’s just an energy that changes during the rain,” Néné said. “I know it sounds a little whiny for people who don't get it, but it is hard when you do love to be around people in the sun.”

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From imagining that L.A.’s changed into another, gloomier city like Seattle to joking that the rain has dragged out for years, Angelenos clearly aren’t used to this.

But as our climate emergency deepens, perhaps it’s time we see the much-needed downpours through another lens.

Not everyone hates the rain

A view of hills that are full of grass and dark green bushes against cloudy skies with the city skyline in the back.
Hillsides are covered with sprouted grasses after rain in Griffith Park on March 21, 2019
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)

Wynter Mitchell-Rohrbaugh is a cultural commentator and digital strategist who lives in the Valley. After more than 20 years here, she says there’s been “so many periods where there just simply is no weather” that the abundance of rain throws people off.

“I know that it's inconvenient for everyone, but man, I can tell you I love the smell of fresh rain,” Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said. “I love when #LARain trends on Twitter because we're so obnoxious about it.”

There are important voices missing in the "annoying rain" conversation, she and Néné say, like the toll on people who live outside without shelter and the strain it takes on vendors who rely on clear weather to operate.

I do feel like L.A. is given a second chance every time it rains. The pollution is gone. We can see the hills. It’s like that's the girl you were meant to be. I see you now.
— Chhaya Néné

But it won’t be for long. Summer will be here soon, when all memories of rain will dry up.

“I really want people to take advantage of this because, literally in like 90 days, it’s going to be 110 or 115,” Mitchell-Rohrbaugh said.

If you need help finding ways to enjoy the wet weather, take heed. The best parts of this time for her and her husband are when they’re driving around after a fresh deluge — “it’s like everything comes back to life.”

“You see things in a way that feels reminiscent of something positive,” she said. “It’s good to have that different sort of visceral beauty that we just don't get to see very often because we live in a concrete city.”

All the grit and dirt is washed off of our trees. And like clockwork, the blue skies are clearer than they were before — as if no cars spat out black smog. For just a day, we get to enjoy a clean L.A.

“I do feel like L.A. is given a second chance every time it rains,” Néné said. “The pollution is gone. We can see the hills. It’s like that's the girl you were meant to be. I see you now.”

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