Why does it rarely rain on Pasadena’s Rose Parade? – Press Enterprise

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Ten times. Just 10 times in 134 years, with a sprinkling of close calls, has it rained on the Rose Parade.

The chain of dry days over the generations has elevated to something of mythos status in the folklore of the famous Jan. 1 event. Ask some folks involved with the flowery, 5.5-mile procession and you might even get back a moment of silence or push back from those who don’t want to talk about it.

After all, talk about it and you might bring some kind of jinx – a curse that would open the flood gates of the heavens on all the pretty flowers, the hours of work, the hours of design that went into it all.

This story itself might be a curse.

Many New Years Days come around with maybe some drama over a forecast of a little moisture, but in the end, the coast, as they say, is usually clear. It has been clear since 2006. And the parade — from its grand marshals to marching bands to hundreds of thousands of spectators — enjoy a day of weather that lives up to the Southern California climate hype, albeit with sometimes threatening skies.

But why? Why does it rarely rain on this parade?

Well, it’s no secret that the climate in Pasadena — that’s 34.14°N 118.15°W (elevation 797 feet), for those of you keeping score — makes it an ideal spot for a parade.

There are theories about the influence of annual weather systems that bring the wet stuff to the area. But in the end, there is not necessarily a big, grandiose explanation.

“It’s just the luck of the draw,” said Rich Thompson, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Thompson noted that Jan. 1 just happens to come in a pocket of time between storms, which signal the beginning of the heart of the region’s rainy season but is not the thick of that season.

His colleague at the NWS put it another way.

“At this point of the season, our average average chance of rain is around 11%,” said Mike Wofford, meteorologist. “That means, on any given day, we have about an 11% chance of rain, and a 90% chance of no rain.”

Jan. 1 tends to falls into that 90%. (More on this later.)

It turns out January is not the most rainy month in Pasadena, where the average precipitation is about 3.8 inches, compared to the average high month of February, which is about 4.6 inches, according to the city.

Juanita Koth, of the Temecula Valley Horsemen's Association, wears plastic over her hat during the rain at Equestfest, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Equestfest is an annual event that showcases the Rose Parade equestrian units with performances. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker, contributing photographer)
Juanita Koth, of the Temecula Valley Horsemen’s Association, wears plastic over her hat during the rain at Equestfest, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Equestfest is an annual event that showcases the Rose Parade equestrian units with performances. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker, contributing photographer)

Combine that with the region’s generally Mediterranean climate — dry summers and mild, wet winters — and you’ve got a recipe that would have the first Rose Parade sponsors, such as Charles Frederick Holder and his buddies at the Valley Hunt Club back in 1890, smiling. For them, climate was the whole point in selling the area.

The world could see the region’s abundance of flowers, even in the winter. Why not celebrate the region with a funky, flowerly parade whose entrants would decorate carriages with hundreds of colorful blooms.

“In New York, people are buried in snow,” announced Holder at a Club meeting a zillion years ago. “Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”

Interestingly, the times that it has rained on Pasadena’s parade seem to roughly align statistically with the average chance of rain in the at this time of year — that 11% number that Thompson noted.

Though the Rose Parade itself — from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. — has never been canceled because of rain, it has been rained on 10 times in parade history, according to archivists: 1895, 1899, 1906, 1910, 1916, 1922, 1934, 1937, 1955 and 2006. If you do the math, it rains on the Rose Parade nearly 8% of the time, which isn’t all that far from 11%.

When it does rain on the parade, it’s usually a bit of a thing – like in much of Southern California, which gets dramatic when even moderate rains come. When it rains on the parade, it’s often remembered.

Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band during the 134th Rose Parade along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena on Monday, January 2, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band during the 134th Rose Parade along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena on Monday, January 2, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

For instance, who would have thunk it that in 1955 and 2006 – the most recent parade rain days — it would be a U.S. Supreme Court justice who was grand marshal: Earl Warren in ’55 and then former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in ’06.

In a 2019 article in the Pasadena Star-News, columnist Patt Diroll described one of those days:

“Former Star-News Editor Larry Wilson remembers the story of his late grandfather, Elmer Wilson, the 1955 Tournament president who also happened to be president of the Republican Club at the time.

Wilson invited Earl Warren to serve as his grand marshal.

“It had poured rain throughout the parade,” Larry said. “So Elmer suggested that they stop by a friend’s house for a drink or two to warm up and dry off. By the time they arrived for the traditional pre-game lunch at Brookside, the FBI, Secret Service and Tournament officials were already on swarm to track down the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m told Elmer heard about that!”

Warren and Wilson weren’t the only MIAs that day. The West Point Band got confused during the downpour and didn’t finish the parade route.”

Even if it doesn’t rain on parade day, wet weather in the days leading up to the big day can wreak some havoc.

For instance, on Dec. 29, 2021, hundreds of the country’s best marching band musicians slogged through a storm amid the annual Bandfest — a popular pre-parade event in Pasadena. Some bands did not perform but most simply donned ponchos and other foul-weather gear.

But even then, clouds parted for the parade itself on New Year’s Day and bands strode in the sunshine on the first day of 2022. As Wofford noted, what’s important is that morning window. It might still rain on Jan. 1, but if it doesn’t rain during the parade, 100 years from now in the record books it will look as sunny as can be.

Is it divine intervention? Relentless drought? A conspiratorial meteorological marketing campaign for Southern California that never seems to ease up?

Unclear, other than “luck of the draw.”

We’ll see what happens this coming Jan. 1. Still 11 days away, the forecast is a little fuzzy or a lot rosy, depending on who you talk to.

David Eads, the CEO of the Tournament of Roses, is boundlessly optimistic.

“The Rose Parade, known for entertaining the world under endless blue skies, has experienced rain just 10 times in its 135-year history, and those rare rainy days haven’t stopped the parade – it’s marched on, rain or shine, proving that nothing dampens the spirit of welcoming in a new year. The forecast looks rosy for January 1, signaling a high chance for a rain-free New Year’s Day celebration,” he said Wednesday.

But a word to the wise, from a National Weather Service report on Wednesday:

“Beyond Tuesday, there are some ensemble solutions indicating additional rain during the latter half of next week into the New Year. The 8-14 Day Outlook issued by the Climate Prediction Center shows likely above normal precipitation for the area for this time of year through January 2nd.”Yes, Wofford said, “there is a chance of some precipitation as we get into the end of the year and the new year.

“It’s not a zero chance. There is a chance of precipitation on New Year’s Day, but right now it would be on the lower side,” Wofford said.

Keep those ponchos ready, folks. But have the sun glasses ready, too.

A SUNNY DISPOSITION

It has rained 10 times in Rose Parade history: 1895, 1899, 1906, 1910, 1916, 1922, 1934, 1937, 1955 and 2006.Rain has never canceled the Parade – the Parade continues rain or shine.

1895 – Rained for the entire week before the Parade and during Parade.1899 – The Parade was postponed until 3:45 due to rain.1910 – Parade postponed until noon, chariot races postponed for one week due to rain.1934 – Twelve inches of rain fell on Pasadena in the 48 hours prior to the Parade which was themed “Tales of the Seven Seas.” The Grand Marshal, Admiral William Sims, nearly missed the Parade when the storm grew so violent that he was unable to leave the U.S.S. Pennsylvania where he was a guest of honor the night before.1937 – A rainstorm struck the night before the Parade, and though the downpour was heavy and decorating tents were damaged, volunteers continued decorating and the Parade went on as scheduled.1955 – Though it rained New Year’s Day during the Parade, the show did go on, and on time too.2006 – It heavily rained throughout the 2006 Rose Parade, which stepped off right on schedule.

(Source: Tournament of Roses)



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