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It’s finally raining in Sonoma – But drought persists

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Wednesday and Thursday brought welcome rain to the Valley after a record dry 2013 – and weather officials say it will continue to rain through the weekend.

Sonoma County received three-quarters of an inch to 1.5 inches of rain from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, according to Roger Gass, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office.

Thursday morning, Gass said NWS was expecting to see a break in precipitation till Friday afternoon, as the first storm system moved out. The second storm system, he said, would arrive late Friday and bring showers that would continue through the weekend, with heaviest rainfall expected on Friday night and Saturday morning. Going into next week, Gass said, things should dry out on Tuesday with a slight chance of rain on Wednesday.

NWS, Gass noted, is expecting to see 5 to 7 inches of rain in Sonoma County with these upcoming storms.

Sonoma County Water Agency spokesman Brad Sherwood said this rain could help relieve some of the drought concerns, but in order to meet the conditions of the 1977 drought, the area needs at least a foot of rainfall. In a typical year, the Sonoma area receives 37 inches of rain; in 2013, the region received about 7 inches.

“We would need a good 17 or 18 inches of rainfall to get us back up to healthy rainfall totals by the end of February and into March,” Sherwood said, noting it will take several periods of storms with heavy rain like those forecast over the weekend to really make an impact on the regional water deficit.

“What really matters is where the rain falls,” Sherwood explained. “We need rain to fall in the Ukiah basin for Lake Mendocino and in the Healdsburg region for Lake Sonoma.”

Soils are still so dry that the ground will absorb much of the rain, he noted, but flows will increase on the Russian River. The water agency expects no major areas of flooding since many of the streams it maintains are dry.

But, Sherwood said, just because there are some significant rains, it’s still important to remember the drought.

“Don’t be teased by the rain,” Sherwood cautioned local residents, “continue to keep water use to a minimum with 20 percent savings.”