Jul 30, 2006

the court order of a federal judge availeth much

Ed Brayton's thoughts on the futility of public prayer reminded me of a little-known urban-legendish anecdote:
On February 18, 1986, U.S. district court judge Samuel King, unhappy at the absence of some jurors due to heavy rains, decreed, "I hereby order that it cease raining by Tuesday." California then suffered five years of drought. In February 1991 King rescinded his order and ordered instead that "rain shall fall in California beginning February 27, 1991." Later that day, California was deluged with four inches of rain, the heaviest in a decade. Judge King proclaimed that the events of the day constituted "proof positive" that the U.S. is a nation governed by laws."
The story originally comes from the Los Angeles Times' "Only in L.A." column of March 5, 1991, though the first half of the anecdote is most notably recalled in Vincent Bugliosi's true crime classic And the Sea Will Tell.

Problem is, the Times piece doesn't provide corroboration for the second declaration, only mentioning as evidence a letter written to the paper by Judge King, known for his "roguish" sense of humor. Whether a hoax, a miracle, or just a remarkable coincidence, we'll likely never know for sure.

Even if King's decree loosed the floodgates, wracking the state with horrendous storms, the drought didn't officially end that day for all of southern California. The Seattle Times reported in February of 1992,
Avalanche warnings went up for the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, and funnel clouds formed off San Diego. Up to 2 inches of rain was expected through today, the weather service said.
Meanwhile, the state's largest water supplier said yesterday it will halt deliveries to the Central Valley, one of the nation's richest farmlands, because the drought is moving into a sixth year.

The announcement, despite the torrents in Southern California, affects parts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. It marks the first time in its five-decade history that the federal Central Valley Project has had to eliminate supplies to any of its customers, said Don Paff, operations director.

"There is just no water available," said Roger Patterson, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the project.

In Southern California yesterday, people took no chances after storms that have left eight people dead and five missing.

Los Angeles closed 651 schools, and most of the 133,000 sandbags city fire stations had on hand Thursday night were gone by yesterday afternoon.

The region suffered its most serious flooding in a decade, Gov. Pete Wilson said in a tour of the muddy Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, a flood control basin where the Los Angeles River overflowed Monday.

Early damage estimates tallied about $23 million in private and public losses in Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Wilson said. Some jurisdictions, including Orange County, hadn't yet reported, he said.
Be careful what you hereby order. You just might get it.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Reminds me of a Sunday school song I learned as a child:

Oh be careful little mouth what you say;
Oh be careful little mouth what you say!
For the Father up above is watching down with love,
so be careful little mouth what you say!


And, of course, we all know from experience that "watching down with love" means "doing whatever he damn well pleases and laughing his ass off when we try to rationalize his capricious ways."