California Olive Oil Producers Weigh the Impact of Tropical Storm Hilary

Producers across Southern California welcomed the unseasonable rainfall and reported only minor damage from flooding and mudslides.

Vehicles cross over a flood control basin on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, in Palm Desert, Calif. (AP)
By Thomas Sechehaye
Aug. 29, 2023 15:56 UTC
Vehicles cross over a flood control basin on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023, in Palm Desert, Calif. (AP)

Hilary, the first trop­i­cal storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, prompted flood watches and warn­ings through­out the region.

According to a news report from KOLD, although the storm was down­graded from a hur­ri­cane to a trop­i­cal storm, it cre­ated tor­nado warn­ings, wild­fires and a mod­er­ate earth­quake in its after­math.

We have groves in var­i­ous parts of Southern California, and over­all, the impact was min­i­mal. We really did not suf­fer any sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.- Thom Curry, owner, Temecula Olive Oil Company

The earth­quake of 5.1 on the Richter scale hit the town of Ojai, caus­ing only minor dam­age.

Lot22 Olive Oil Company is one of the few grow­ers and pro­duc­ers in San Bernadino County, about 90 kilo­me­ters east of down­town Los Angeles, which saw the most severe aspects of the storm.

See Also:State-of-the-Art Irrigation Management Leads to Rising Yields in California

This year’s poten­tial har­vest on the trees was look­ing sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter than last year,” Zach Thorp, the co-owner of Lot22, told Olive Oil Times.

We are happy to report that although many areas around our county saw winds between 40 and 60 miles per hour (65 to 95 kilo­me­ters per hour), due to us tak­ing topog­ra­phy into account when we ini­tially planted our trees, we were able to essen­tially shel­ter the trees from the high sus­tained winds and keep all of our crops,” he added.

North of Los Angeles, pro­duc­ers in Bakersfield reported receiv­ing 2 inches (51 mil­lime­ters) of rain from the storm but con­firmed they had not expe­ri­enced any adverse impacts, such as flood­ing or mud­slides.

Other pro­duc­ers across Southern California reported min­i­mal dam­age to their groves, with some wel­com­ing the extra rain­fall.

We have groves in var­i­ous parts of Southern California, and over­all, the impact was min­i­mal,” Thom Curry, the owner of Temecula Olive Oil Company, told Olive Oil Times. We really did not suf­fer any sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.”

Sunday was the wettest day on record in San Diego. Rainfall on August 20, 2023, was recorded as 1.82 inches (46.2 mil­lime­ters), beat­ing the 1977 record of 1.80 inches (45.7 mil­lime­ters) after post-hur­ri­cane Doreen.

We basi­cally blew all of our pre­vi­ous rain­fall records [in San Diego] out of the water,” National Weather Service mete­o­rol­o­gist Elizabeth Adams told The Associated Press.

As most of the dam­age was in flood­plain areas, we were able to keep every­one safe by get­ting every­one home before any major ele­ments of the storm hit and by not hav­ing trees planted in flood plains,” Thorp added.

In the De Luz hills between San Diego and Los Angeles, Pura Grove owner Tim Bui said his trees had only sus­tained minor dam­age from the storm.

There’s not much dam­age on our prop­erty this year, just some minor loss of fruits and a few bro­ken trees,” he told Olive Oil Times.

The Orange County Register reported that the last trop­i­cal storm to strike California occurred in 1939. According to a Los Angeles Times post, trop­i­cal storm Hilary left mas­sive flood­ing, mud­slides and upheaval across Southern California.

San Bernadino County offi­cials declared a state of emer­gency. Several moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties suf­fered road dam­age, cut­ting off access in and out of many com­mu­ni­ties. Visiting San Bernadino County, Governor Gavin Newsom pledged his sup­port for the county’s recov­ery efforts.

The his­toric storm left lin­ger­ing dam­age that emer­gency per­son­nel will con­tinue to assess. Emergency per­son­nel uti­lized vol­un­teers, drones and sheriff’s avi­a­tion crews to eval­u­ate the con­di­tions by air and ground.

In addi­tion to emer­gency evac­u­a­tions and dam­age to roads and com­mu­ni­ties, The Drinks Business mag­a­zine reported that vine­yard dam­age is expected in Temecula Valley and Santa Barbara as the storm rages in the region.

According to Curry, the impact on his groves was min­i­mal. The rain, as always, was wel­come. The wind did knock fruit off the trees in some areas, and we had sev­eral trees with bro­ken branches due to wind and large crop load.”

Despite the storm, Curry and other olive pro­duc­ers pre­dicted the 2023 olive har­vest is on track for suc­cess.

The weather needs to behave. The trees have been doing great,” Thorp said. If we can just get to har­vest with­out major fires, unsea­sonal freez­ing, sear­ing heat, hur­ri­canes or some unheard of obscure insect plague, and if our har­vest teams still find it advan­ta­geous to stay in our area to hire for har­vest, then fin­gers crossed we will have a great har­vest.”

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