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A very wet year for San Diego

Rain on a windshiled on Mar. 1, 2023.
Erik Anderson
Rain on a windshield in March.

San Diego’s water year ends Saturday — and it will be recorded as the 14th wettest year on record for the city.

A recorded 15.72 inches of rain fell at the San Diego Airport over the past 12 months. The weather station there typically sees about 9.5 inches a year.

It was the wettest year ever on Palomar Mountain. Rainfall there totaled 69.24 inches.


Oceanside had the second-wettest year ever, at 23.47 inches, and Vista recorded 25.05 inches of rain — making it the North County city’s fourth-wettest year on record.

In the East County, Ramona’s rainfall total of 25.39 inches lands as the city’s eighth-wettest year on record.

One major reason was 13 atmospheric rivers that drenched the region over the winter.

“There was only a couple of days of break between each rainfall,” said Alex Tardy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego. “Each storm lasted two or three days, with the majority of the rain occurring in one day or less.”

Rainfall totals also got a boost when Tropical Storm Hilary rolled through the region in August. That storm, which reached category 5 hurricane status before weakening and reaching San Diego as a tropical storm, dropped about 2 inches of rain at the airport.


Some mountain regions in San Diego County got over 6 inches of precipitation in just one day.

All of that rainfall has been good news for a region suffering through two punishing droughts in the past decade.

In fact, the U.S. Drought Monitor is showing something not seen very often recently: More than 90% percent of California is drought-free.

But drought watchers say this is probably not the beginning of a long-term trend if recents years reflect what is to come.

“So the last 20 years have been more drought-prone than any of the 20-year periods since 1895,” said Richard Heim, an author with the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Droughts have been longer and more intense recently, something climate watchers attribute to climate change.

But some think that a building El Niño could be a source for storms this coming winter. “In terms of impacts, if it’s a really strong El Niño and you get a lot of heavy rain, well, just witness what happened this past winter,” Heim said. “How much flooding did California have? Too much rain, too fast, in a limited area can cause some significant flooding.”

Predicting what will happen next year is difficult.

Forecasters say the warming Pacific Ocean could bring intense storms as in 1997 or drought as in 2015.