Overcast and rainy-looking on California’s north coast this early Thursday — i.e., Thanksgiving — as well as it should be, a big storm is supposedly swirlin’ our way.
According weather reports, the storm is the biggest in years, for this time of year and in a short space — we could get up to three inches of rain, while down south of us, five or six inches.
Added benefit fighting the drought, snow is included in the weather frenzy, a stroke for our beleaguered water supply.
(Illustration: NASA satellite image of California’s drought, found here).
Although every little bit helps, maybe more is needed
This will probably be the first time in a couple of years we’ve seen this much rain in this amount of time,” said forecaster Steve Anderson.
A total of 4 inches is expected to fall in the Bay Area on Saturday through Tuesday, with higher elevations in the North Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains getting as much as 6 inches, Anderson said.
And from Climate Central yesterday, the rain in perspective:
Of course, one storm won’t erase such a deep moisture deficit, which has left some communities on the brink of waterlessness.
But it’s at least a small step in the right direction, local forecasters and climate scientists say.
“We are looking at this being one of our heaviest storms in quite some time,” David Spector, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Hanford, Calif.
The storm could be the strongest since one in March 2012.
A deep low pressure system is set to move over the West Coast starting on Sunday and lasting through Monday, according to NWS forecasters.
The system will bring with it rain at lower elevations, and, more importantly, snow to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The Sierra snowpack is a critical part of California’s water system: The snow that falls during the winter wet season melts gradually in the spring, filling the state’s extensive networks of reservoirs.
The past few winters have been disastrously dry, with meager snowpacks and record-low statewide precipitation levels; 2013 was the driest year on record for the state.
Record-warm temperatures this year meant that what snow there was melted quickly, instead of trickling into reservoirs into the summer months.
“We have no snow at all below basically 8,000 feet” in the Sierras, Spector said, and very little above it.
With this storm, the mountains should see at least a few inches of snow, and “it’s very much possible that the higher elevations of Yosemite park will see 2 to 3 feet,” he said.
The ridge has also spiked temperatures over California; it’s a virtual certainty that this will be the state’s warmest year on record, and by a significant margin.
There are indications that this storm could be the start of some wetter weather for California.
The December outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for better chances of above-normal precipitation for the whole state, in part because of the El Niño struggling to fully develop in the Pacific Ocean.
“They seem to think that this will continue at least for a little while,” Tom Dang, a meteorologist in the Sacramento NWS office, said.
And if nothing else, it’s unlikely California will see a repeat of last winter: “It’s very difficult for it to reach the levels that we reached last winter,” Dang said.
“We’re certainly on much better footing” this year than last year.
Footing is fleeting, though.