Wild storms fill reservoirs
Hoxsie: 'I don't think anybody wants that much rain'
By TIM HEARDEN
SHASTA LAKE, Calif. -- After a mild start, autumn weather in the Golden State has turned ferocious.
November storms -- including last week's powerful system that brought gusty winds and copious amounts of rain to the Central Valley -- pushed precipitation totals well above their averages for this time of year in most northern areas.
For instance, Redding sopped up 6.77 inches in November, well above its average of 4.48 inches for the month. And Sacramento's 3.97 inches of rain in November was nearly double its normal total of just over 2 inches.
The rainfall was a welcome addition to California's reservoirs, which have reached their normal levels statewide after a bit of a slow start. Shasta Lake was expected to rise by 10 feet or more with runoff from the storm that extended into last weekend, said Sheri Harral, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman here.
Gauges recorded 3.5 inches of rain at Shasta Dam in a 24-hour period Nov. 29-30, Harral said. The dam has received 17.56 inches of rain so far this season, well above the 7.8 inches it had recorded last year at this time.
Nonetheless, Harral said the bureau wouldn't be releasing water to make room for future storms, as reservoirs often do this early in the season.
"Because we were down lower than we would have liked to have been, we're not anticipating having to go into flood control for this storm because we're on the lower end," she said. "We're holding back everything we have from the reservoir because the side flows are going to be enough to fill the (Sacramento) River."
After a little more rain this week, most areas are expected to get a respite in the coming week, according to the National Weather Service. However, more storms and low snow levels could arrive in the week before Christmas. The federal Climate Prediction Center envisions wetter-than-average conditions in the next 30 days in much of Northern California.
Long-range forecasting has been particularly difficult this year, though, because of constant shifts in the atmospheric conditions that give us the weather patterns known as El Niño and La Niña, explained Kathy Hoxsie, a National Weather Service warning coordinator in Oxnard, Calif.
"We can keep our fingers crossed that this is not going to be the overall winter pattern, because I don't think anybody wants that much rain," Hoxsie said. "It's hard to tell right now. We're at the end of the transition period, so it could be very wet up there (in Northern California). They've been known to have very wet Decembers."
So far, growers have been happy with all the rain. For one thing, it's helped make for larger navel oranges in time for Christmas shipping, said Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for California Citrus Mutual.
"We did get a lot of rain and we need water," said Dave Baker, director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers. "We needed to catch up on our water."
Despite gusts that reached over 60 mph at times last week, there were no reports of major orchard damage as of Dec. 3, Baker and Blakely said.
Some growers were out pruning their almond and plum trees before last week's storm and applying zinc sulfate to get rid of any remaining leaves, said Rick Buchner, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Red Bluff.
"Anything you can do to take the sail out of the tree is helpful," he said.
Here are the November and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Nov. 30:
Redding: Month to date 6.77 inches (normal 4.48 inches); season to date 9.12 inches (normal 7.49 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 6.36 inches (normal 5.61 inches); season to date 9.86 inches (normal 8.93 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 3.97 inches (normal 2.08 inches); season to date 5.14 inches (normal 3.37 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 1.73 inches (normal 1.36 inches); season to date 1.85 inches (normal 2.32 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 3.13 inches (normal 1.4 inches); season to date 3.32 inches (normal 2.18 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 1.11 inches (normal 1.07 inches); season to date 1.36 inches (normal 1.89 inches)
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs and comparisons to their seasonal averages as of midnight Dec. 2, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 75 percent of capacity; 114 percent of average
Shasta Lake: 61 percent; 100 percent
Lake Oroville: 59 percent; 95 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 72 percent; 133 percent
Folsom Lake: 50 percent; 104 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 63 percent; 115 percent
Millerton Lake: 51 percent; 119 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 22 percent; 58 percent
Lake Isabella: 15 percent; 56 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 41 percent; 66 percent