Raining in the New Year, the Sacramento region and much of California were hit by an atmospheric river.
This phenomenon, according to Deborah Williams of the National Weather Service, “acts as a continuous cycle of moisture with a comparison to a conveyor belt of rain.”
Country Day sophomore Priya Chand got caught on that belt on Dec. 31.
Chand and her friend hydroplaned on Fair Oaks Boulevard on their way to ring in the New Year with some friends. Just 35 minutes away from home, they found themselves in the middle of one of the deadliest waves of fatal weather trends.
At approximately 8 p.m, Chand remembers the sequence that almost cost her her life.
“You basically couldn’t see five feet in front of you — the rain was like a barrier,” she said. “Lights were out and everywhere you looked trees were dropping like flies. Then, out of nowhere, a tree just appeared causing us to run off the road.”
Yet, her night was far from over. After calling her dad, towing companies were so backed up that the car couldn’t be moved until the next day. Hence, she waited a long hour for her dad to pick her up.
“The whole time we were sitting, anxious about a tree just falling and hitting our car,” she said.
However, Chand’s seemingly unusual and life-threatening experience proved to be common among her Country Day peers. Other Country Day students and faculty are still recovering from the tremendous
repercussions of that tropical storm. For junior Annalucia King, storm damage still hangs over her household weeks after its initial occurrence.
In total, King estimated there was more than $10,000 worth of damages done to her property at her home in Land Park.
The biggest hit came when a large oak tree limb smashed onto the car in her driveway, crushing the car’s windshield, hood and roof, destroying it beyond repair.
Tree limbs also damaged the roofing on her garage and the gym area of the house. The storm kept going, and King watched as her fencing was ripped in half. “It was really scary seeing the fence being whipped back and forth,” she said. “That was really the point where I knew the storm was getting bad.”
Less than five minutes away, Director of College Counseling Alicia Perla’s Land Park home faced a different hardship as the storms ravaged her neighborhood.
For four days, Perla’s home sat in darkness as power outages circulating throughout Sacramento affected every aspect of her daily life.
Practically speaking, Perla detailed her life halting, as her access to hot water, a working refrigerator, a heater, her stove and Wi-Fi were all gone.
Consequently, early January for Perla and her two daughters sophomore Cecilia and senior Simone DeBerry consisted of navigating through tree-strewn roads and charging their phones in the car to have enough battery to find out updates on the SMUD power grid.
During this period, Perla and her two daughters stayed at a friend’s house, waiting to return to their normal lives.
However, the dread that hit Sacramento County, fortunately stayed far away from Country Day’s campus, as students were able to return to school immediately.
Head of Maintenance Jay Holman said damages to the school were minimal. “We were really lucky, he said.” “Apart from some small limbs, a broken roof tile in the lower school and some other cleanup our crew did around here, we weren’t hit that hard.”
The biggest surprise to Holman was the school’s ability to maintain power. “I know that schools in the surrounding area had to take the day off because they really had nothing, but we really hit a strike of luck that our power still stayed on,” he said.
Even though Country Day held up against the storm, Head of High School Brooke Wells and other faculty members across the school were prepared for the worst.
“We would have continued with classes asynchronously through Zoom,” he said. “We understood there would also be students who didn’t have access to the internet due to power shortages, so we were ready to be flexible for the sake of our students.”
Wells added that there is no school policy regarding what to do in the event of extensive storm damage, however, the school has shut down in the past for similar situations.
Nevertheless, amidst the chaos of the following weeks, Wells and others fear that this could be a common trend our region faces for the upcoming years.
This fear can subsequently be diminished through easy steps, Williams said.
For starters, essentials like food, water and medical supplies, flashlights, batteries,a backup generator if accessible and documents important to you like driver’s licenses or passports should be kept in a safe and accessible place ready to go.
Once prepared, ensure your car is filled with gas, access to potable water, have an established emergency plan with you and your family and continue to watch news alerts about storms in your area
— By Jacob Chand
Originally published in the Feb. 8 edition of The Octagon