All That Rain Hasn’t Dented the Incipient Drought — Yet

The high rainfall totals of the past 48 hours — including 2.4 inches in Downtown S.F. — should put a dent in the moderate drought that continues to grip three-quarters of California.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Apart from a bunch of downed trees and two little earthquakes in the same spot 24 hours apart, we sure got a lot of rain this week. The Big Sur River crested just below flood stage, and the Napa and Russian rivers’ levels spiked before rapidly falling again. Southern California got plenty on Monday, when snowy conditions closed Interstate 5 fin both directions for hours. The Sierra Nevada got several feet of snow, too — but all that water (frozen or otherwise) has barely put a dent in the low-grade drought that has gripped California this winter.

April 2018 saw 268 percent of the average rainfall for the month, but while that boosted the 2017-18 water year totals, San Francisco is still lagging. The past 48 hours have been stormy, with a buoy 350 nautical miles west of Point Reyes registering a 41-foot wave, those rainfall totals were significant. Berkeley got 2.13 inches, Downtown San Francisco got 2.39 inches, Mount Diablo got 4.46, San Rafael got 4.7, and Pescadero Creek got 9.53.

With the caveat that the latest drought map reflects conditions as of Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 4 a.m. local time, the low-level drought is still simmering statewide, with the Bay Area still “abnormally dry.” (This may be the new normal, however.) The only major week-over-week change since the previous week is that the “extreme” drought hotspot centered on Ventura County has been alleviated. That came at a cost, too, as the Pacific Coast Highway was closed due to mudslides — which haven’t entirely abated in the L.A. area, either.

Hopefully, this latest storm will see the pale “moderate” drought patch that covers three-quarters of the state recede a bit. The Bay Area is set to get another storm on Sunday, with no rain in the forecast for the six days after that.

View Comments