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Despite rain, California forecasters don’t expect miracle

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

Despite a five-day "pineapple express" that brought much-needed rain to California, forecasters aren't ready to declare a miracle end to the state's drought just yet.

Capital Press

SACRAMENTO — Despite copious amounts of rain in a five-day period last week, weather forecasters in California aren’t ready to declare a miracle just yet.

Even as more rain was expected to reach Northern California late this week, the long-range outlook is still drier than normal in most of the state, cautioned Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service warning coordinator here.

“The farther we get into February and March, our chances of hitting normal precipitation just become less and less because we’re transitioning into our dry period,” Mead said.

With California in the midst of a historic drought, many farmers and ranchers have said they’re hoping for a “miracle March” similar to two years ago, when a mid-winter dry spell of about six weeks gave way to a rainy pattern in the late winter and early spring.

However, the federal Climate Prediction Center predicts below-average rainfall in central and southern California over the next month or so, and drier-than-normal conditions for the entire state over the next three months.

The center’s forecasters say the Golden State’s chance of experiencing “a pattern change where we’ll see this (rainfall) continue into the spring months is not likely,” Mead said.

“It does look good for the next week to week and a half,” she said.

The prospects remain modest despite a “pineapple express” or subtropical atmospheric river that dumped warm showers on much of the state Feb. 6-10. Redding sopped up 4.06 inches of rain during the period, Sacramento received 2.78 inches and Fresno recorded an inch.

The storm helped the state’s depleted reservoirs a little. For instance, Folsom Lake near Sacramento rose 17 feet during the storm, though it is still at only 22 percent of capacity, Mead said. However, rainfall totals in most areas are still well below their seasonal averages.

The rain helped wheat, oats and other grain crops grow, although alfalfa producers still had to irrigate last week, reported the National Agricultural Statistics Service office here. The rain was also a relief to nut growers, though more is needed, NASS noted.

Despite the storms, range and non-irrigated pasture continue to be in poor to fair condition, according to the agency.

Online

National Weather Service: http://www.weather.gov

Climate Prediction Center: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov

NASS California Crop Weather: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Crop_Progress_&;_Condition/



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