Clear skies rescue harvest of several commodities

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

SACRAMENTO -- October weather in California did its best impersonation of March, coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb.

Several significant storms early in the month gave way to sunny skies and warm afternoons in the Central Valley, rejuvenating harvests that had been hampered by rain.

But anticipated valley rain this weekend will likely signal a wetter midautumn pattern and perhaps a cold December, said Kathy Hoxsie, the National Weather Service's warning coordinator here.

"We look like we're shifting into a more typical fall pattern, so these nice, warm, Indian summer-type days look to be coming to a close," Hoxsie said. "People will need to make sure they have their gutters cleaned out and their jackets out of the back of their closets."

About three weeks of clear skies and afternoon highs in the 70s and 80s were great for crop development. According to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Sacramento:

* About a quarter of the rice crop was harvested last week alone, and the harvest was about three-quarters finished as of Halloween. The cotton harvest continued at a quick pace as virtually all cotton bolls have opened.

* Harvests of peaches, nectarines, plums and raisin grapes was nearly complete, while the picking of other fruits -- including table grapes and wine grapes -- continued. The olive harvest also moved ahead.

* Harvesting of walnuts and pistachios continued, as growers had been looking for some warm days to dry the ground and collect the walnuts that had been knocked down by the last storm. The harvests of late almond varieties proceeded as growers reported above-normal volumes because of a heavy crop set.

Growers have no doubt been scurrying to get the job done before any coming onslaught.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center foresees an above-normal chance of precipitation from Sacramento north in November, particularly in the next couple of weeks. Temperatures should be cooler than usual throughout the West, the center predicts.

Days should become "more consistently wet, not big-storm wet," Hoxsie said.

The changes are characteristic of a second straight year of La Nina, a weather pattern that pushes storms north. Typically a wet and warm autumn gives way to a cold winter and drier spring, Hoxsie said.

October rainfall

Here are the October and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of Oct. 31:

Redding: Month to date 3.05 inches (normal 2.1 inches); season to date 3.33 inches (normal 3.01 inches)

Eureka: Month to date 4.21 inches (normal 2.24 inches); season to date 4.79 inches (normal 3.32 inches)

Sacramento: Month to date 1.33 inches (normal 0.95 inches); season to date 1.34 inches (normal 1.29 inches)

Modesto: Month to date 1 inch (normal 0.68 inches); season to date 1 inch (normal 0.96 inches)

Salinas: Month to date 1.47 inches (normal 0.58 inches); season to date 1.52 inches (normal 0.78 inches)

Fresno: Month to date 0.9 inches (normal 0.63 inches); season to date 0.9 inches (normal 0.82 inches)

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