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Current rainy season could be a drought buster, forecaster says

Semi-trucks parked at the Golden Acorn Casino & Travel Center in Boulevard are shown on Feb. 24, 2023.
Matthew Bowler
Semi-trucks parked at the Golden Acorn Casino & Travel Center in Boulevard are shown on Feb. 24, 2023.

This weekend brought San Diego county one of the season’s biggest winter storms.

A cold storm from the north on Thursday brought low temperatures and snow levels down to 2,000 feet of elevation. Then conditions warmed as an atmospheric river brought tropical moisture to the region.

“And that rolled in Friday through Saturday and it rained hard. Most places saw 2 inches of rain — North County had 3 inches of rain,” said Alex Tardy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


That precipitation included hailstorms. Over the course of four days, it switched from snow to rain and back to snow again as the temperatures fluctuated.

“There were locations that had repeated hailstorms from Friday all the way through Saturday,” Tardy said. “And on Saturday the snow levels went crashing back down again to near 1,500 feet.”

As of 11 a.m. on Sunday, Mt. Palomar had gotten 28 inches of snow over five days and Mt. Laguna got 29 inches.

On Saturday, Caltrans San Diego said heavy snow caused the closure of northbound State Route 79 at Old Highway 80 in Descanso and eastbound State Route 78 in Santa Ysabel, except to area residents. The closures were to remain in place until road conditions improved.

Flooding occurred in low-lying areas around the San Diego River. Both lanes of Mission Center Road in Mission Valley were closed between Friars Road and Camino De La Reina due to flooding.


Two people were rescued by lifeguards Saturday when their vehicle was trapped in flooding on Pacific Highway near the San Diego Airport. Lifeguards performed the rescues and the two people were assessed for injuries.

California has experienced drought conditions over the past two to three years. At the beginning of the season there were few hopes of turning that around, but Tardy said this rainy season could bring precipitation levels and water supply back to normal.

“We need about two times the snowpack and also about 150% of the rain, not for San Diego, but central and northern California and we are on pace for seeing that,” he said.

In fact, much of California currently has two times the normal snowpack. But, if California is rebounding, then Southern California's water source, the Colorado River basin, still has a long way to go.

“Now the Colorado (River) is doing well with snowpack. It’s above average. But they have more than three years to make up. They have a decade to make up,” Tardy said.

Even in the best conditions we won’t be able to stop saying “drought” after this winter is done. Rain and snow is predicted again for Wednesday in San Diego.

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