Wet, cool weather delays harvests, fieldwork
Temperatures expected to stay low for next few weeks
By TIM HEARDEN
RED BLUFF, Calif. -- Winter-like weather isn't finished with California after all.
Many areas around the state received about double their normal rainfall amounts in May, accompanied by several storms that brought hail and thunderstorms to the Central Valley.
The lower-than-average temperatures have kept lots of snow in the mountains and perhaps prevented widespread flooding, noted Johnnie Powell, a National Weather Service forecaster in Sacramento.
Statewide, the average snow water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was 28 inches as of May 31 -- 262 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center.
And the cool and wet pattern isn't giving way to summer heat very soon. Temperatures -- which now are averaging about 20 degrees lower than normal in the Central Valley -- should stay low until about the third week of June, Powell said.
"We'll keep getting systems across that are going to keep us cool," he said. "There's not going to be tons of rain ... (but) we don't see 90s until late June. Long term, we won't be back to normal until late July or August."
Last month's showery periods came after a dry April that allowed farmers to get into their fields for their spring chores.
So far, many farmers and ranchers are taking the unseasonable weather in stride, though the prospect of a soggy late spring and early summer could raise concerns of another delayed harvest.
"It frustrates some farmers who weren't finished, myself included," said rice farmer Chris Crutchfield, president of American Commodity Co. in Williams, Calif. "In reality, it means we're going to be five or seven days longer until harvest, that's all."
At Lindauer River Ranch in Red Bluff, Calif., workers were under cover May 25 making dryer trays rather than being in the prune and walnut orchards. The rain keeps some work from being done, such as mowing, and too much of it increases the threat of brown rot, farm President Michael Vasey said.
"They don't mind the rain," Vasey said of the trees. "It makes it a little hard to farm right now, that's all."
However, some commodities already have been hampered by the weather. California cherry growers dealt with May 15-17 rain and hail throughout the San Joaquin Valley, but temperatures stayed low enough that damage should be light, Jim Culbertson, executive manager of the California Cherry Advisory Board, has said.
The cool and wet conditions have California apple growers expecting a later-than-normal harvest, and the melons usually available around June 1 could be delayed a week or two, the California Farm Bureau Federation reported.
A mild spring and summer last year delayed the harvests of numerous crops in California. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center foresees an equal chance of above- or below-average precipitation in the Golden State over the next three months, and the summer could start cool and heat up quickly.
May and seasonal precipitation totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of May 31:
Eureka: month to date 1.13 inches (normal 1.58 inches); season to date 43.54 inches (normal 37.41 inches)
Redding: month to date 3.07 inches (normal 1.62 inches); season to date 34.09 inches (normal 32.79)
Sacramento: month to date 0.99 inches (normal 0.52 inches); season to date 22.45 inches (normal 17.72 inches)
Modesto: month to date 0.85 inches (normal 0.54 inches); season to date 13.98 inches (normal 12.98 inches)
Salinas: month to date 0.68 inches (normal 0.22 inches); season to date 15.33 inches (normal 12.81 inches)
Fresno: month to date 0.35 inches (normal 0.38 inches); season to date 15.6 inches (normal 10.99 inches)
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight May 30, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 93 percent
Shasta Lake: 98 percent
Lake Oroville: 96 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 95 percent
Folsom Lake: 90 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 86 percent
Lake McClure: 73 percent
Millerton Lake: 53 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 71 percent
Lake Isabella: 59 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 90 percent
Here are average snow water equivalents and comparisons to normal for the date in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center. Totals are as of May 31:
North: 30 inches, 363 percent of normal
Central: 32 inches, 259 percent of normal
South: 20 inches, 180 percent of normal
Statewide: 28 inches, 262 percent of normal