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Rain Doesn't Signal Wet Winter, But Does Reduce Wildfire Risk

A rainy day in San Diego, Nov. 21, 2016.
Christopher Maue
A rainy day in San Diego, Nov. 21, 2016.

Rain Doesn't Signal Wet Winter, But Does Reduce Wildfire Risk
Rain Doesn't Signal Wet Winter, But Does Reduce Wildfire Risk GUEST: Alex Tardy, meteorologist, National Weather Service

It is Tuesday, November 22. Our top story on Mid-Day Edition, California has been experiencing something unusual lately, rainfall. Even though we have officially entered our six straight year of drought, many October rainfall totals in northern California were more than double the average. And of course, we had a good soaking yesterday with more rain in the forecast next week. That this be a trend for our winter forecast? Joining me is a meteorologist, Alex welcome back. ________________________________________ What's going on up north? That weather pattern has brought a lot of rain to the region. ________________________________________ It's almost like northern California left off from last year and have continued with the rain that they seem -- which is been significant like you mentioned. 200% of normal. It's not just northern California, the northern Rockies, the Pacific Northwest. Storm after storm after store which has been very beneficial. The one thing we have noted is that the reservoirs have an increased much. ________________________________________ Most of this rain even though it's beneficial and some times heavy, we are in such a long drought that the soil coming out of the hot summer that we had is just absorbing and taking all of that water. The good news is that sets the stage for letter rains that we can capture. ________________________________________ Is it too early to talk about increase snowpack of North quick ________________________________________ It is probably too early in the year to make any projections. You see what happens with the atmosphere is that it will reset each season. In our case of a drought that has been a bad start. We have started off behind and have become more behind each year after year. This is perfect because even the rain we saw here in Southern California, this helps us with fire weather conditions and helps us soil and sets the stage so we can get someone off during the winter. ________________________________________ How does our rainfall here or our situation vis-à-vis the drought compare with northern California since they have been getting so much rain quick ________________________________________ Last year the El Niño brought them a little bit of above normal rainfall and filled out most of the reservoirs. It didn't erase the drought but made huge improvements. For us in Southern California we made zero improvements. Were starting off in a bad situation well below normal situation. In the past five years we are missing almost 2 seasons of rain. When you put a number to that, Palomar Mountain, over 40 inches of rain that is missing in the past five years. We've got a long ways to make up but the good thing is our key reservoirs in northern California did make up a lot last year. ________________________________________ We spoke with Dana of the San Diego County water Authority about the impact of this week's rainfall. ________________________________________ We were excited about the precipitation we received over the weekend. It's a great way to start out the season. But right now that's only a drop in the bucket here in Southern California or in San Diego. What's good about the rainfall though it does dampen demands. ________________________________________ So we basically, you in the County water Authority are on the same page about the impact. I do want to ask you though it was unusually warm for most of the month of November. Where did that come from quick ________________________________________ The first two weeks of November were remarkable. Just before this nice rainfall we had in the cooler temperatures, we were over 7 degrees above normal and that's for the month. Where did it come from? We had to Santa Ana wind events the basically blow the rubber -- the marine layer off shore. Accompanying those wind events we had this big dome of high pressure the just Rebuilding. Is not the same we see in the summer. It was the result of the storm so we're going across the Pacific Northwest. We were on the wrong side of those storms and built up all of that warm air ahead of it. So now we're reversing that trend quickly but we're going to see a little warm up pretty quickly this week as well. Nothing like we saw in early November's -- November. ________________________________________ Your weather models indicate more rain? ________________________________________ There is a chance we will see some rain Saturday night and Sunday during Thanksgiving break. After that, it is uncertain. The good news is that at least that will cool us off and bring northern and central California more beneficial rains early this week and then again into the weekend. No major storm in the picture for Southern California get. We usually can't see those more than 10 days anyway. ________________________________________ Over the Thanksgiving holiday itself, you are saying it will get warmer? ________________________________________ Yes. The warmest day will probably be Thanksgiving day. Probably in the mid and upper 70s it looks like. And then they see the cooldown on Saturday and Sunday more like what we saw today or seeing today and what we saw yesterday. Clouds or maybe a chance of showers. Not nearly as much rain. Most places salt one 12:45 half-inch of rain. I got three quarters of an inch of rain at my house. Very beneficial rain. I turn my sprinklers off like everyone should. ________________________________________ Before you leave, for people traveling across the country this holiday, are there any spots that could be a problem? ________________________________________ It looks like Wednesday and Thursday, trouble will be good across most of the country. Maybe some small problems like the upper Midwest and New England. The problem starts on the return.. Either late Sunday or Monday it looks like the Pacific Northwest and New England area could get quite stormy. Keep that in mind especially if you're going to delay your travels. You might want to leave Sunday instead of delaying it for Monday or Tuesday.

San Diego County may get more rain Saturday night or Sunday, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.

Temperatures in the county on Thanksgiving could be in the mid- to upper 70s before cooling down over the weekend, meteorologist Alex Tardy said.

Northern California will see rain over the holiday, in keeping with what has already been a wet fall. Tardy said the region is 100 to 120 percent above normal for rainfall since Oct. 1. That's in contrast to Southern California, which is below average for rainfall nearly two months into the state's sixth year of drought.

"We have a long way to go already, even though the season is very young," Tardy said.

Tardy said that although the rain that fell in the county on Sunday and Monday does not signal a wet winter for San Diego, it does reduce the chance for wildfire.

"It doesn't stop fires, but it makes it so much harder for fires to spread if they do start," he said.

Tardy discusses his holiday weather forecast on KPBS Midday Edition Tuesday.