During the past week, Idyllwild has seen near-record September rainfall. Since Sept. 1, nearly 2.8 inches of rain has been recorded at the Idyllwild Fire Station and 2.4 inches of rain recorded at the Keenwild Ranger Station in Mountain Center.
The 70-year average is .83 inches during September. The maximum is 8.3 inches, which fell in September 1976. During the past 70 years, the recorded rain at Idyllwild Fire Station exceeded 2.8 inches only four times. The year 1997 was the most recent, with 4.1 inches recorded.
Since July 1, the beginning of the rain year, nearly 3.6 inches have fallen at Keenwild and 3.1 inches in Idyllwild. The long-term average for the first three months of the rain year (from July through Sept. 30) is 2.35 inches.
Since July, rainfall in Pine Cove totaled 2.7 inches and nearly 1.7 inches fell just this week, according to resident George Tate, who tracks Pine Cove’s precipitation for the Town Crier. About 1.25 inches of rain fell at Mt. San Jacinto Peak this week, according to National Weather Service data.
The average annual rainfall since 1946 is 25.4 inches, last exceeded in 2010. In the last decade, only 2005 and 2010 exceeded the average yearly rain.
The past two rain years have been significantly less than average. In 2012, about 20 inches, or 80 percent of the average, fell. Last year’s precipitation was 14 inches or only 56 percent of the average.
While the recent deluge may temporarily reduce fire danger and relive water stress, the long-term benefits are not yet significant.
The level of Idyllwild Water District’s Foster Lake has barely improved, according to General Manager Terry Lyons. “It’s too much, too fast,” he said.
“While the rainfall may have quelled fire activity in the near-term, most of the rainfall was too heavy and brief to result in significant moisture uptake by brush, shrubs and other vegetation. Heavy timber was largely unaffected by the rain and 1,000-hour fuel moisture continues to surpass the 90th percentile over most regions,” the Southern California Geographic Coordination Center’s Thursday, Sept. 6 bi-weekly fuels discussion stated. The center is an organization composed of multiple Southern California fire agencies.
“At least the rain gave firefighters the opportunity to knock down many of the western fires,” said Pine Cove Water District General Manager Jerry Holldber. This weekend, the National Preparedness Level was reduced to 2. During the Silver Fire it had been raised to the maximum of 5.
Forecasts predict a return to normal September weather this weekend. Further in the future, the National Weather Service climate predictions do not foresee either an El Niño or La Niña weather pattern developing this year.