Sincerest sympathies are extended to those suffering from the January rain storms. Our Level 1 Local Disaster received no National media coverage but we know that damage was significant. A year of rainfall dumped onto the desert in a short time brings good to no one. Disaster funds may ease the victims' financial burden; but won't help with human trauma. Hesperia is now in moping-up mode and it's time to look for opportunities to keep this degree of destruction from coming again. We're not in control of the rain but when it lands on us, we have ownership of its effect.


It's not that we don't get warnings. Dark clouds gathering over the mountains signaling it will be a warm storm bringing rain rather than snow. Many of us have access to weather reports on our computers, car radios, and cell phones. The Department of Public Works sets out road closure signs and sand bags are offered. When the runoff on the roads is so deep we wish we had purchased a high water kit for the jeep, we know we're pushing our luck to continue driving. When we see that roof runoff is forming small lakes around the house, we should realize water might soak through the stucco and come home with us.


Desert residents should be familiar with the locations of the natural washes and avoid them during a storm. If that dip in the land resembles a dry river bed there is a good probably that it was created by past flood waters. Heed the advice that homes are more at risk for flooding when constructed it in a natural wash. Check out our topography on internet maps and pay more attention to Star columnist Richard Doornbos.


Even with a realistic, informed approach, nature still holds the trump card in the rain game of chance because the desert presents unique challenges. The barren landscape can not absorb heavy rainfall. With no roots to hold back the mudslides, water carves deep channels capable of compromising paved roads, structures, and retaining walls. Water seeks the lowest level and the path it chooses to get down there is not always apparent.


I was lucky. The minor annoyances I struggled with are insignificant when compare to what others experienced. I fretted that flooded-out ants would find their way into my kitchen, and stressed-out when I couldn't get the builder's attention prior to the rains to repair a roof tile that had slipped out of place. Others had lives at risk. I complained that my phone didn't work for parts of two days while a man was calling for help from a storm drain at The Green Tree. I lost internet access for a week while some lost their homes. I didn't have to be escorted over the pass by the snow plow because I could stay home and only struggled with swift water as I looked for an alternate place to set out the trash cans. My mail delivery wasn't interrupted like the service of the folks whose carrier's truck became trapped in the mud.


But escaping unscathed doesn't mean I don't believe improvements are needed and that we are capable of achieving them. We should be collecting rainwater for future use. We're warned that the aquifer is shrinking and we're engineering ways to reclaim and process gray water. How difficult can it be to collect rainwater and turn it into a gift from God rather than an uninsurable Act of God per the small print in the homeowner policy? Hesperia requires floodwater catch-basins within our subdivisions; surely there are other areas where problematic runoff can be diverted into collection ponds where it can be absorbed into the soil. Why does rainwater turn our major thoroughfares into white-water rivers? Why don't we use more drainage pipes and bridges? Why are washed-out roads repaved in the same configuration? Why don't we have enforceable building codes restricting homes from being built in floodplains?


We're a new city with space to grow. We can engineer the runoff. We could develop citywide plans for flood prevention. We can be sure heavy rains will come again. But next time, will we be better prepared to receive them?