California is not known for its rainfall. In fact, the state is predisposed to droughts that persist for years. But lately, there have been above-average levels of precipitation and, thanks to the wetter-than-usual weather, the water from Lake Berryessa in Napa County is pouring into the lake’s spillway for the first time in 10 years. Those lucky enough to see this sight are finding it hard to look away.
A spillway is a man-made structure used to control the release of water from a dam or levee so that the dam does not overflow and become damaged. When water flows into a spillway, it is usually released into an area downstream. In the case of Lake Berryessa and its Monticello Dam, the excess water flows into a reservoir, which then provides drinking water to the cities of Vacaville, Vallejo and Fairfield. According to The Reporter News, the lake had to reach 440 feet of elevation before pouring into the spillway.
Lucky for us, the sight of the water flowing into the spillway went viral after it was caught on video by a drone. I say “lucky for us” because it is seriously more mesmerizing than you might imagine. In fact, the Bureau of Reclamation urged safety for boaters, onlookers and even those traveling by car, in anticipation of the attention this vortex-like vision would draw as the lake began to fill.
Based on Twitter reactions, drone video and various news outlets covering the event, this phenomenon has, indeed, received quite a bit of attention, and for good reason. The aerial views show what looks like some kind of starburst, portal effect as the water flows down into the reservoir.
I suggest watching the videos without sound for an especially meditative experience. It’s really much prettier than you’d imagine it to be, and words can’t do it justice.
According to The Reporter News, there have been 34 total inches of rainfall for the area recently. The last time the lake was this high was in 2006. So, to say this much rainfall has been a long time coming for the region would be quite the understatement. Not only is the sight of the spillway a source of fascination for those just passing by, but it’s a sign that the state’s five-years-and-counting drought may finally be coming to an end.