Wet weather is forecast to hit the North Coast Wednesday night following one of the driest Decembers on record but it won’t be enough to lift rainfall totals to normal winter levels.
Santa Rosa is expected to get up to an inch of rain and the coastal hills could see 2 inches in storms that will continue into next week, National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Anderson said.
It will add to a meager showing since the start of the rainy season Oct. 1.
So far, Santa Rosa has received just over 6 inches of rain — 45 percent of the normal 14 inches. December was particularly parched with less than one-tenth of an inch — .08 — the lowest amount recorded since 1998 at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport when 0.19 inches were recorded. Neither the NWS nor AccuWeather have rainfall totals at that location prior to 1998.
The lowest December rain total ever for Santa Rosa was in 1989 when no rain was recorded.
Normal rainfall for December is about 7 inches.
“The next three days will be wetter than the entire last month,” Anderson said. “Which doesn’t say much because December was so dry.”
Still, officials are not yet warning of a drought. The next three months could be productive. Last year, when a record 60.5 inches fell on Santa Rosa, there were several 24-hour periods with up to 6 inches of rain, Anderson said.
“It could easily be made up with a few good storms,” he said. “So no need to panic.”
Elsewhere around Sonoma County, conditions seem to be mirroring a return to when the state was locked in a five-year drought.
So far this season, Petaluma has received about 2 inches of rain, Healdsburg 4.5 inches, Sonoma 3.5 inches and Guerneville 7.1 inches, according to AccuWeather.
After the coming storms pass, the region will be dry until at least mid-January, said Brian Edwards, an AccuWeather forecaster, “so it doesn’t look like we’re going to break out of the pattern just yet.”
The California Department of Water Resources’ first snow survey of the year takes place Wednesday. Water managers use measurements of the snowpack’s water content to help them anticipate mountain runoff during the spring snowmelt.
The good news is local reservoirs continue to hold a “healthy level of water behind the dams,” said Brad Sherwood, spokesman for the Sonoma County Water Agency.
Lake Sonoma was at 82 percent capacity as of Dec. 26 and Lake Mendocino was 99 percent full, according to the agency’s website.
Despite the current high levels, Sherwood urged consumers to remain conservation-minded.
“Rain or shine, water is a finite resource that we ask everyone to use lightly,” he said.