It's raining. What does that mean for the drought?

So far, February has been great for California. We have seen a few storms and by the end of the weekend we will have some serious rain and snow totals for the month. I see the potential for 2 to 4 inches of rain for Sacramento and 5 plus inches of rain for the foothills of the Sierra and 6 to 8 inches for the North Coast of California.

All of this is very good, and we might even hit our average rain total for the month by the end of the weekend. That means any additional rain will then start to make up for the lack of rain in January. Remember the rain hasn't fallen yet so we are just talking about potential at this point.

The problem is that we are in a multi-year drought and one rainy pattern will just not be enough. It stops the bleeding, but it doesn't repair the damage. I see a few problems with getting out of the drought in the near term. First of all, the snow pack is better than it's been but it's certainly not stellar. At the last snow survey, we only saw 12 percent of average snow pack for the season, and just 5 percent of the average of the April 1 average, the typical peak.

The new wet pattern this weekend is going to be great for moisture content, but the snow pack may not end up on the winning side of things. I see snow potential at first, then the snow level rises through the weekend to 7,000 feet and up. It might even end up at 8,000 feet. That could be a rain-on-snow situation which melts the snow pack, leaving a ton of snow up high and very little down lower.

This gives you flooding potential, but since the snowpack is so low now, I don't see too much potential for that on a large scale. What I do see is a very uneven snow pack, and that will mean uneven melting into the spring. It's true that heavy rain will still add water to the system and eventually help to raise reservoir levels, but by how much I don't know.

Let's just say that February ends up with average precipitation, or even a little more -- it's still not enough. We still need to make up for the dry January, dry December, etc. Ultimately the drought will end when more of these set-ups move into the area. I've seen this before and 1991 was a year to remember. We had a multi-year drought and it almost came to an end in one month:.Miracle March. Statewide the rain total was something close to two and a half times the monthly average, and at Mammoth, there was least 12 feet of snow in just one month.

I love the saying "When you are in a hole and you want to get out of it, stop digging." Well, we are in a giant hole that has been called the mega-drought and at least, for now, we can say we are trying to stop the digging. The question now: is it too deep to climb out?

Meteorologist Rob Carlmark


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