In California: Is the state ready for another drought? And movies are back

·6 min read

I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and if you're expecting yet another story in this newsletter about the ever-changing mask mandates, today is not the day. But who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Instead, let's take a look at some of today's other headlines from this great state of ours.

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How prepared is California for 2021’s drought?

Is the Golden State running out of water and time? So asks Julie Cart and Rachel Becker, writing for Cal Matters.

California — already in the clutches of another drought emergency — is looking over its shoulder at what happened last time, anticipating the worst and evaluating the strategies that worked and those that failed.

Is the state in a better position to weather the drought this time around? Some things are worse, some are better: Groundwater is still being pumped with no statewide limits, siphoning up drinking water that rural communities rely on. In northern counties, residents are reliving the last disaster as water restrictions kick in again, but in the south, enough water is stored to avoid them for now.

The good news is that in urban areas, most Californians haven’t lapsed back into their old water-wasting patterns. But, while some farmers have adopted water-saving technology, others are drilling deeper wells to suck out more water to plant new orchards.

The upshot, according to Cart and Becker, is California isn’t ready — again.

“We are in worse shape than we were before the last drought, and we are going to be in even worse shape after this one,” said Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at University of California at Davis.

For a more detailed analysis, read the full article here.

A sign along Pine Grove Avenue in Shasta Lake asks residents to conserve water during the 2021 drought.
A sign along Pine Grove Avenue in Shasta Lake asks residents to conserve water during the 2021 drought.

In related news: This summer, Northern California's Lake Shasta (or Shasta Lake, as it is officially known) is facing possibly its lowest level in at least 44 years, and that could be bad news for the people who rely on it for drinking and irrigation water, as well as endangered salmon that depend on it to survive.

Dam operators have to go all the way back to 1977 to compare how bad this year’s water situation is shaping up to be, said Don Bader, area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the dam.

“It's dry. It's second worst, so far. It's probably going to exceed ’77. But the kicker is in ’77 we didn't have all the requirements that we have now,” Bader said.

The bureau is scrambling to figure out how to stretch the limited supply in the lake to meet the needs of cities and farms up and down the state that rely on water from the lake, as well as endangered salmon that need the water to survive downstream in the Sacramento River, Bader said.

Big movies are back, at least in some form or another

Disney's "Cruella" will serve as a prequel to "101 Dalmatians," exploring Cruella's back story.
Disney's "Cruella" will serve as a prequel to "101 Dalmatians," exploring Cruella's back story.

Are you a movie junkie who has spent the last year-plus jonesing to spend the afternoon sitting in the dark at your local multiplex? It seems Hollywood’s summer movie season will soon descend upon us.

After many postponements, the Los Angeles Times reports that Memorial Day weekend will bring us two major movie events that were originally slated to happen in 2020: “A Quiet Place Part II” starring Emily Blunt and Disney’s “Cruella” starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson.

According to the report, "most of this summer’s major films will get a theatrical release — and many will be in theaters only on their opening day — others will roll out simultaneously at the cineplex and on streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu."

It's an experimental time for studios; some potential blockbusters are cautiously being shelved until 2022, while some star vehicles are being sent directly to the streaming markets, including Kevin Hart’s “Fatherhood” on Netflix and Chris Pratt’s “The Tomorrow War” on Amazon.

Are you feeling out of the loop, movie-wise? Film writers at the Times have highlighted 12 flicks they’re looking forward to seeing this summer, regardless of where and how they're released.

From a fire comes a flower, look what's blooming in Northern Cal

A row of fire poppies are seen in a burn scar area inside Toro Park in Salinas, Calif., on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.
A row of fire poppies are seen in a burn scar area inside Toro Park in Salinas, Calif., on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

Out of last year's tragic fire at Toro Park in Monterey County, there may come some beauty.

Fire poppies have begun to bloom in the blaze's burn scar. They only come to life after a spot has experienced a fire, which hadn’t happened in the area for more than 100 years.

Monterey County's Facebook page described the flowers as “a beautiful sign of recovery.”

Not to be confused with the state flower, the California poppy, these flowers are also notable for their fireball orange color. The flowers typically last for a couple of days at most, though the seeds can lie dormant for years until smoke from a fire begins the germination process.

According to UC Berkeley, fire poppies — the scientific name is Papaver californicum — is native to central western and southwestern California.

Toro Park reopened to the public last month after being closed since August.

San Francisco to ban 'traditional' dancing at high school proms

A prom-goer stands six feet apart from his date.
A prom-goer stands six feet apart from his date.

In what sounds like yet another remake of "Footloose" (Say it isn't so!), some high school seniors in the Bay Area who have looked forward to shaking their groove thing on prom night are facing yet another casualty of the COVID pandemic: City health officials have declared there will be “no dancing in the traditional sense" at San Francisco proms this year.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that after a year of being stuck at home and having to learn via Zoom, seniors at some high schools are being allowed a taste of normality with a few typical end-of-the-school-year events, such as prom and graduation.

However, the city health department’s current guidelines for school events promises to make San Francisco's 2021 prom an unusual one.

Non-vaccinated individuals will be required to stay 6 feet away from others and at events held indoors face masks will be required. (Kinda makes dancing cheek to cheek difficult, doesn't it?)

Health officials say a prom packed with prom-goers, some of whom are vaccinated, some of whom are not, has the potential to be a super-spreader event.

“The prom is not going to be a traditional prom,” said a spokesperson for the health department.

Now here's a question: Back in my day, most prom etiquette required that a boy's tie and cummerbund matched his date's dress. Will the same be required of masks? Just asking.

Two killed as gunfire hits California party bus

Two women were killed at at least five others were wounded after at least two shooters opened fire on a party bus driving on a San Francisco Bay Area freeway early Tuesday. Approximately 70 rounds were fired at the bus, according to authorities. See video here.

Demi Lovato now identifies as nonbinary

Demi Lovato is a singer, songwriter, actor and activist who has been in show business since the age of 6.
Demi Lovato is a singer, songwriter, actor and activist who has been in show business since the age of 6.

In Hollywood news, singer Demi Lovato announced Wednesday that Lovato now identifies as nonbinary and will be using the pronouns "they" and "them." What exactly does that mean? Head on over to USA TODAY for an insightful article by David Oliver.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle. We'll be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.

As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at winston.gieseke@desertsun.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In California: Is the state ready for another drought? And movies are back