By TIM HEARDEN
The most recent doses of rain and wind in California's Central Valley have evoked mostly happy responses from growers, who say the conditions bode well for their crops and livestock.
Intermittent periods of showers and sunshine have mixed with occasional high winds to create an unsettled early spring, as temperatures have remained well below normal.
A brief warm spell that began April 7 was expected to give way to cooler weather and scattered precipitation, said Eric Kurth, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento, Calif.
The service's Climate Prediction Center expects the pattern to continue through April.
"Over the next few weeks, it looks like generally a little cooler than normal tendency and maybe a little wetter than normal," Kurth said.
While the state's Department of Water Resources has been reluctant to declare an end to California's more than three-year drought, steady storms this winter and spring have kept most valley cities at or near their normal rainfall totals.
The latest rain has helped replenish reservoirs -- many of which still have below-average levels -- while keeping the grass green and recharging stock ponds, said Ned Coe, a rancher and California Farm Bureau Federation field representative in Alturas, Calif.
"It helps not only now in extending the grazing season, but it can help with good stock ponds next fall," Coe said. "They should have some water left in them, not only for cattle but for wildlife in the area all summer long."
The rain hasn't bothered the valley's citrus growers yet, since bloom is only just beginning for navels, valencias and mandarins, said Bob Blakely, California Citrus Mutual's director of industry relations. Growers just don't want to see thunderstorms or high winds during the blossom, he said.
Other fruit orchardists are content, too.
"The prune guys like a little cooler weather, and I haven't seen anything in the way of frost," said Rick Buchner, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Red Bluff, Calif.
As for nuts, almond growers were concerned about their rain-shortened bloom in early March, but by now most have already applied fungicides and are not seeing many fungus problems on crops, said Dave Baker, director of member relations for Blue Diamond Growers in Salida, Calif.
"The big one that we always are concerned about this time of year is the fact that we could have some very cold weather and go below freezing in the area," he said. "So far we've been exceptionally lucky."
Rain can be a catalyst for walnut blight, especially if temperatures rise, said Dennis Balint, chief executive officer of the California Walnut Commission. But cooler temperatures reduce the risk, he said.
Growers in the northern part of the state are used to having wet springs, Buchner said.
"Growers up here are very good with protective medicines," he said. "This is the way it usually is."
Here are the National Weather Service's seasonal rainfall totals for selected California cities. Totals are as of Monday, April 5:
Redding: 25.93 inches (normal 29.33 inches)
Sacramento: 18.35 inches (normal 16.45 inches)
Stockton: 12.47 inches (normal 12.53 inches)
Modesto: 12.35 inches (normal 11.77 inches)
Salinas: 14.96 inches (normal 11.91 inches)
Fresno: 10.28 inches (normal 10.07 inches)
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight Monday, April 5, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 54 percent
Shasta Lake: 87 percent
Lake Oroville: 49 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 73 percent
Folsom Lake: 61 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 52 percent
Lake McClure: 56 percent
Millerton Lake: 80 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 59 percent
Lake Isabella: 31 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 84 percent