SACRAMENTO — After a fierce mid-February storm system kept most areas near or above their normal seasonal rainfall totals, Northern California could be in for a wet March.
A weak system coming down from Canada this weekend could provide some mountain rain while helping to break down the high-pressure ridge over the region, setting up a possible barrage of storms from the Pacific, National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Kurth said.
“The ridge does seem to be breaking down to where we might be seeing some systems in early March,” Kurth said. “The very long-range models are showing a shift to a wetter pattern in early March. ... There do seem to be some hints in that directions.”
AccuWeather’s long-range forecast goes as far as to predict as many as 23 days of rain in Redding in March, punctuated by some thunderstorms, with high temperatures in the 50s and low 60s.
The federal Climate Prediction Center is a little less exuberant, showing only an equal chance of above- or below-normal precipitation during the next month.
The potential for more rain comes after a series of storms Feb. 6-9 dumped nearly 3 inches in Redding and 2.7 inches in Sacramento, bringing the total seasonal rainfall in the capital city to 13.2 inches — above its normal 11.91 inches for the season, according to the National Weather Service.
The storms relieved drought conditions in northwestern California, where as many as 15 inches of rain fell in the mountains, but most of the middle of the state remains in the most severe category of drought, according to the national Drought Monitor.
The storms were too warm to deliver significant amounts of snow to the Sierra Nevada, where the snow water equivalent remains far below normal for this time of year, the state Department of Water Resources warns.
The department currently expects to deliver 15 percent of requested water allocations to State Water Project contractors, although growers have voiced concerns that the percentage could drop again because of the light snowpack.
State water officials said last month that low levels of fresh water may force them to build temporary rocky barriers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to keep saltwater out. Officials considered building the barriers last year but didn’t because of early spring rains.
Conditions can change. Forecasters predicted a wet December, but the rain stopped at Christmas and many areas in California experienced a historically dry January.
Here are the percentages of total capacity and average for this time of year for major California reservoirs, according to the state Department of Water Resources’ California Data Exchange Center. Percentages are as of Feb. 16.
Trinity Lake: 45 percent of capacity; 63 percent of average
Shasta Lake: 55 percent; 78 percent
Lake Oroville: 47 percent; 70 percent
Folsom Lake: 56 percent; 103 percent
New Melones: 25 percent; 42 percent
Don Pedro: 42 percent; 61 percent
Exchequer: 8 percent; 16 percent
San Luis: 60 percent; 73 percent
Millerton Lake: 36 percent; 56 percent
Pine Flat: 15 percent; 30 percent