California’s wet February encourages farmers

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

February brought much-needed rain to California's farms and ranches, and March may bring more. But officials caution the water content in snowpack is still far below what will be needed this summer.

RED BLUFF, Calif. — February brought much-needed rain to California’s parched farms and ranches, and March may do the same.

Rainfall for the month was actually above normal in some northern areas, prompting the grass to grow and relieving ranchers of some of the need for supplemental feeding.

“I heard this morning that some of the streams are beginning to run, so the need for hauling water is decreasing,” said Kari Dodd, manager of the Tehama County Farm Bureau.

The latest series of storms that commenced in Northern California on Feb. 26 put a damper on the almond blossom, but many growers don’t care.

“I’ve heard several almond growers say they’d sacrifice part of the crop if we could just get more rain,” said Shannon Wooten, a beekeeper in Palo Cedro, Calif.

The high-pressure ridge that locked out virtually all precipitation for much of the winter weakened in the past month, allowing some storms in. As a result, Redding sopped up 7.28 inches for the month, above its average of 5.23 inches.

Snow had blanketed the northern Sierra Nevada range as the state Department of Water Resources was conducting the season’s third snow survey on Feb. 27. The surveys are a key factor in determining how much state and federal water is sent to farms and other recipients.

Manual and electronic readings showed that the snowpack’s statewide water content had improved to 24 percent of average for the state, but officials cautioned the water content is still far below what will be needed by farms and cities this summer.

On the bright side, an index of water content readings from eight weather stations in the northern Sierras shows that California has surpassed its benchmark drought years of 1923-24 and 1976-77, said Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service warning coordinator in Sacramento.

March is typically winter’s “last hurrah,” Mead said, and long-range models show there’s a good chance that Northern California will at least get normal rainfall for the month, which measures to as much as 3 inches in the Sacramento Valley and as much as 10 inches of snow water content in the mountains.

However, the northern Sierras would need another 35.7 inches just to attain a normal season, Mead said.

“The chances of March making up all 35 inches would be a tough order,” she said. “It would be three times their normal monthly average if that happened.”

February rainfall

Here are the monthly and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Feb. 28:

Redding: Month to date 7.28 inches (normal 5.23 inches); season to date 11.2 inches (normal 25.05 inches)

Eureka: Month to date 6.02 inches (normal 5.43 inches); season to date 12.49 inches (normal 28.98 inches)

Sacramento: Month to date 3.28 inches (normal 3.35 inches); season to date 5.33 inches (normal 13.61 inches)

Modesto: Month to date 1.44 inches (normal 2.3 inches); season to date 3.43 inches (normal 9.27 inches)

Salinas: Month to date 1.9 inches (normal 2.41 inches); season to date 2.96 inches (normal 9.12 inches)

Fresno: Month to date 1.53 inches (normal 1.96 inches); season to date 2.83 inches (normal 7.81 inches)


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