Back in the Day: Residents recall ‘extreme’ Solano weather
The following Back in the Day column originally appeared in the Fairfield Daily Republic on March 15, 2013
By Tony Wade
With the devastation Mother Nature wreaked on the East Coast during Hurricane Sandy and subsequent snowstorms, it seems kind of silly to talk about “extreme” weather in Northern California.
Still, perhaps the very fact that the variance in seasons here is not that great is why it at least seems like a big deal when we experience flooding, windstorms or even snow.
In my senior year at Armijo High School, 1982, a devastating flood hit that turned the student parking lot into a pond. The storm dropped 6 inches of rain and Vallejo evacuated 2,000 people, Suisun City evacuated 200 and about 150 residents of Solano County’s seat were sent to the Fairfield Community Center for safety.
There were widespread power outages and 70 percent of Fairfield homes had no telephone service. Solano County was later declared a federal disaster area.
I wasn’t here for the mid-1970s snowfall, but when the white stuff fell again in 1988, it was big news just as it had been then. The headline to a 1988 article by Daily Republic reporter Ian Thompson summed it up nicely: “When snow falls in Solano, it hits the front page.”
In that time before cellphone cameras, I shot down to Lucky to get some 35 mm film and snapped a picture of my dog Brutus wondering just what the heck was going on.
Locals shared remembrances on different extreme weather events:
Floods of ’56, ’82, ’86, ’88
Susan Macy Luckenbach: “The flood of ’56 caused havoc in the valley. Suisun Creek was level with the bank and my grandparents were evacuated to our house on Van Buren Street. My aunt, Mildred Macy, took some awesome movies of the orchards underwater and the spillway at Lake Curry shooting water sky-high like a rooster tail. As a kid I thought it had Armageddon written all over it, but I tend to overanalyze.”
Lyent Hogue: “During the flood of ’86, a city employee came up to my parents’ door and said we were being evacuated. We got in a boat and spent the night at the Community Center and thank God, we weren’t flooded. But Air Base Parkway under the North Texas Street overpass was like a lake!”
Sharron Herrick Lukens: “As for the flood in ’82, I remember them canceling school and kids jumping off the overpass onto Air Base Parkway because it was flooded down below.”
Rebeckah Gatlin-Shurrum: “My boyfriend came to rescue me with a canoe right down the middle of the street.”
Lawana Cager: “In ‘82, my brother was a paper boy and an angry customer called saying that he didn’t deliver her paper and demanded he bring her one regardless of the storm. So I took him and we got stuck trying to get home. That evil cow didn’t care that two kids were out in that horrible weather, either.”
Snow of ’74
Dan Monez: “Wow, that snowstorm was something else. I was working for the Sheriff’s Office and my partner and I had stopped at the truck stop on Suisun Valley Road to eat. Everybody inside started pointing out the windows. We went outside and all we could hear was metal crashing as cars went out of control on I-80. It was a mess!”
Mary Babinski: “I was 8. My mom woke my sister Anne and I up around 6 a.m. and said, “Wake up girls! You are never going to see this again in our Fairfield.” My big brother Mike, who was in the Army, was on leave from being stationed in South Korea. He flew in the night before and we were all so excited he was home. I remember my mom telling us that he brought the snow to us.”
Wind storm of ’88
Carl Lamera: “I remember the winds getting up to 70 mph. We would take our jackets and hold them up like sails and jam down the court on our skateboards. You stopped by jumping off the board and rolling into the lawn at the end of the court. It sucked walking back to do it again. It was OK to spit in that wind because it would just zoom by you and onto the guy walking behind you.”