As the state’s battle against a devastating drought finally cools, a mesmerizing whirlpool has opened up in California’s Lake Bearesa.
Officially named the ‘Morning Glory Spillway’, the bizarre effect is due to a water-drainage system that was installed when the body of water was dammed in 1953.
It is essentially a giant concrete funnel, 75-feet wide at the top and 28-feet at the base, which stands just below the edge of the 440-foot dam wall to prevent it from overflowing.
The Hypnotic Spiral is rare because of California’s scorching climate, and has been opened about two dozen times since it was built seven decades ago.
But the emergence of the flute will be a welcome sight for state officials as it ends an extended ‘megadrought’ that saw more than 1,200 wells dry up and half a million acres of farmland become barren at its peak last year.
The strange vortex effect is a result of the construction of a large cement funnel to prevent the dam from overflowing Lake Beresa.
The massive spillway was envisioned by engineers as the authorities wanted to build a dam on Berissa Lake to provide electricity and water to the northern Gulf region.
When the water level rises in the region, the giant bell-mouth attracts thousands of people as they gather to catch a glimpse of the unconventional tourist attraction.
‘It’s really dramatic to see,’ Solano Irrigation District operations manager Kevin Slang told the New York Times.
‘I went there the other day and there were about 15 drones flying and people taking videos,’ he told the outlet in February 2017, when the glory hole was open.
Although the current is not known to be strong, local swimmers and boaters are warned to avoid the spillway opening due to the high water pressure in the center of the falls.
In 1997, a woman fell to her death after falling down a several-hundred-foot drop, which has an 8-foot-wide pipe that funnels water down a creek.
The enchanted spiral is rare because of California’s scorching climate, and has appeared about two dozen times in the past seven decades. The funnel can be seen in this image (left).
In 2019, fascinating footage captured the moment a cormorant swam deep into Berissa Lake as the whirlpool opened.
Striking footage shows another victim being pulled into the depths by a whirlpool in 2019, after a wave swept away at high tide.
Brianna Ruff, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the spillway, said it was unlikely the cormorant would have survived the dangerous fall.
‘What I understand is that the water is going down really fast and when things come out the other side… I don’t want to be really graphic,’ Ruff told SFGate.com.
When the funnel opened that year, it was the second time in 12 years that the water level was high enough to cause an impact.
The emergence of the glory hole comes after the ongoing drought that ravaged California last year ended with heavy rains and even high levels of snow in some areas.
More than 531,000 acres of farmland were left uncultivated in August due to extreme drought, a 36 percent increase from the same period in 2022.
California endured a widespread ‘megadrought’ that scorched the state’s resources, barren thousands of acres of farmland and evaporated its aquifer levels> Pictured: An aerial view of the Pitt River Bridge spanning drought-stricken Lake Shasta on July 5, 2022
Residents in some areas of California are being warned to conserve water due to the ongoing drought. Photo: Horseshoe Lake dries up near Mammoth Lake, California on July 28, 2022.
Residents of the small town of Kolinga were warned that they were months away from running out of water, as water capacity in reservoirs across the state also reached dangerously low levels.
About 85 percent of the state was under severe drought in January 2023, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. As of July 2023, that number stands at just 19 percent.
Climate variability in California is a frequent issue for state officials, with Gov. Gavin Newsom signing legislation pouring $536 million into drought and fire prevention policies in 2021.
Carla Nemeth, of the Department of Water Resources, outlined the challenge at a press conference in March, where she said: ‘Water management in California is complex.’
‘It’s become more complicated in these challenging climate conditions where we see swings between very, very dry, very wet, and dry again.’ ‘We’re back wet now.’
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