The strongest El Niño weather pattern since the late 1990s never truly brought its predicted rain torrents to Southern California. During the winter months, when the region was expected to be dealing with flood emergencies and mudslides, an unusual high-pressure system pushed the storms further north.
According to Alex Tardy of the National Weather Service’s San Diego office, the number of active storm systems met expectations, but they seldom passed over Southern California.
The strong El Niño pattern, whose forecast began late last summer, continues to persist, although it is beginning to “fizzle,” Tardy said.
“A very warm El Niño water system continues along the California coast,” he said. “But we’re not sure why the usual pattern has not responded.”
Precipitation never reached the forecasted levels. San Diego barely received half the rain amounts that fell during the 1997-98 El Niño.
Idyllwild has received about 18 inches of rainfall, according to Tardy, which is only two-thirds of the normal annual amount. During February and March of 1997-98, nearly 28 inches fell on the Hill.
However, Northern and Central California did receive more rainfall than expected. “The state water supply had a big jump,” Tardy said. “The reservoirs in Northern California are above average for this date, probably at 70 to 85 percent of capacity.”
In contrast, Diamond Valley Reservoir south of Hemet is only 37 percent full, he noted.
Nevertheless, NWS is forecasting stormy weather in Southern California for the last week of March and perhaps early April.