The trees on the ridge leading to Tahquitz Peak sit covered in a light coat of snow the morning of Thursday, Oct. 6. Photo by Cid Castillo

The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for the Hill and Southern California mountain communities last week. While no snow fell in the village, the mountain ridges surrounding Idyllwild were dusted in white powder.

This week, the forecast for Wednesday through Friday is for temperatures in the high 80s, approaching 90 degrees in Idyllwild.

Nevertheless, last week’s winter advisory got the notice of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit. Idyllwild member and former President Lee Arnson expressed concern for the days following the winter advisory.

“People just see the snow in the high country and it looks beautiful. They just want to come and play,” Arnson said. “They’re not experienced with the back country — the night temperatures and wind and [possible] hypothermia.”

Coincidently, Wednesday night was a scheduled RMRU meeting. On the agenda was getting winter gear prepared for winter rescues.

Since July 1, the start of the rain year, the rainfall total recorded at Keenwild Ranger Station is 3.99 inches and 4.25 inches at Idyllwild Fire Station. The long-term average rainfall through Oct. 31 is 3.41 inches.

Although rainfall is above the average at this time of the year, the forecast for the remainder of the rain year (through June 30, 2012) is for the formation of a moderate to weak La Niña weather pattern.

“During September 2011, La Niña conditions strengthened,” according to the National Weather Services Climate Prediction Center monthly forecast. “Currently, La Niña is not as strong as it was in September 2010 ... a higher probability for drier-than-average conditions across much of the southern tier of the country.”

The general trend for La Niña winters is for Southern California to be drier than normal with above-average temperatures. However, as evidenced by last year’s record-shattering December storms, there can be exceptions.

“While a La Niña like the one we are expecting this winter typically brings lower-than-normal precipitation to Southern California and the Southwest, the concern this year is that something similar to what happened last year could happen again,” stated Senior Meteorologist and Western Expert Ken Clark. “Storms may be far enough south or wet enough that rainfall could be higher than what is typically expected during a La Niña.”

If La Niña does develop, the Pacific Southwest normally receives less than average rain. While history is the best guess, actual results vary. Last rain year, the total recorded rainfall was nearly 29.4 inches, or 14.4 percent more than the long-term average. In this rain year, through mid-October, the generous rain has continued.

While a few heavy rain events cannot be completely ruled out in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas this year, the focus of stormy weather this winter is predicted to be farther north, according to the Long-Range Forecasting Team.