More rain on the way for California, but drought may not be over

Sacramento | Reuters — This week’s California storms dumped up to 7.6 cm of rain on the parched state and more wet weather is on the way, but it is too soon to know whether there will be enough precipitation this winter to remedy three years of drought, forecasters said.

Although the sun came out Thursday, torrents pouring down overnight and earlier in the week opened up sinkholes in San Francisco, stranded motorists in their cars near Los Angeles and led to mudslides near San Diego.

In downtown Los Angeles, where last year was the seventh driest since officials began keeping records in 1877, this week’s storms brought the total so far for the current rainy season to about 5.6 cm, slightly more than average, said Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

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Even so, Sirard said, the past three years have been so dry that for the period from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014, downtown Los Angeles was short its normal amount of rainfall by about 50 cm, he said.

It’s not yet clear whether the recent storms and those expected this weekend will indicate a wet winter, or renew hopes of a strong El Nino system — a warming of ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific near the equator that can lead to storms in the U.S. southwest and other places, Sirard said.

“Right now we’re still not really sure,” he said. “We could have a blockbuster winter or we could have a dry winter.”

The AccuWeather forecasting service said in a news release that a series of storms would drench the northern part of California, as well as parts of Oregon and Washington state through the middle of December, dropping as much as 30 cm of rain in places, as well as “yards of snow.”

— Reporting for Reuters by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento.

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