The hillsides dyed orange with poppies may look like something out of a dream, but for the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
The town of 66,000 people was inundated with around 50,000 tourists coming to snap pictures of the golden poppies growing in Walker Canyon as part of a superbloom of wildfires caused by an unusually wet winter, BBC News reported. The visitors trampled flowers and caused hours of traffic, The Guardian reported.
“This weekend has been unbearable in Lake Elsinore,” the city wrote on its Facebook and Instagram pages, according to The Guardian. “We know it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community.”
City officials briefly closed access to the canyon Sunday night, but it was opened again Monday morning.
“The City continues to evaluate all possible options to reduce the strain on our community, the freeway, and local roadways. At this time, it is not feasible for us to keep visitors away from #WalkerCanyon,” the city said in its post. “We are working on a new plan and new options for the coming weekend and will be sure to share this with our community as soon as possible.”
Some have blamed social media for the crowds, as Instagram influencers posted selfies with themselves against a backdrop of flowers.
“We’ve seen much larger crowds this year because the bloom is bigger than ever,” assistant to the Lake Elsinore city manager Nicole Dailey told BBC. “We’re getting the crowd numbers Los Angeles gets for large sporting events,” Dailey added. “Social media buzz has brought numbers that the city has never gone through before.”
The incident began trending as #poppynightmare.
“One of our employees was hit and run by a driver. A rattlesnake bit a visitor. Residents have been screaming at the people directing traffic,” Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos said in a Facebook post reported by BBC.
However, while the poppies are causing problems for Lake Elsinore, they are a good sign for California, since the bloom signals that the state is drought-free for the first time in seven years, according to a video by Now This.
The Sierra Nevada snowpack is now 50 percent higher than average and all reservoirs are full, Al Jazeera reported. Just last year, 70 percent of the state was still at risk for water scarcity. However, scientists have said that swings from drought to extreme rainfall will become more common in California with climate change.
The rain and wildflower bloom have also led to a massive migration of Painted Lady butterflies through Southern California.