The winter of 2019 has been wet and cold, perhaps more typical of historic winter weather than recent winters.
For example, the 2017-18 rain year was one of the driest on record in Southern California. In contrast, since the middle of January, the U.S. Forest Service’s Keenwild Station has recorded nearly 20 inches of rain.
That is more rain than a full year for six of the last 10 years and the rainfall since Oct. 1 has exceeded two of the other four. Since Oct. 1, 2018, Keenwild has recorded 26.8 inches of rain.
“Since the start of the water year, October 2018, almost all areas [in Southern California] are at 150 percent of normal [rainfall] and some mountain areas are at 200 percent,” said Alex Tardy, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s San Diego office. “This is in the top 10 percent of the wettest years for much of Southern California.”
The snow pack in Northern California is already at 1.5 times the average year, he added. And reservoirs are filling. According to the NWS, Diamond Valley Lake is at 91 percent of capacity.
Lake Hemet’s water supply has nearly doubled since October, from 6,300 acre feet to nearly 12,000 AF, according to General Manager Mike Gow. In his report to the LHMWD board, he wrote, “Currently, the lake level is 133.9’ with the top of the dam at 135’ and a storm is forecast for March 21.”
This is not the end. The NWS is forecasting more rain later this week and possibly next week, too.
“Active weather continues. It appears between March 20 and 28, we will have another storm off the Pacific in Southern California,” Tardy reported. “This is not just normal precipitation but above normal.”
Monday morning, March 18, the NWS reported, “Our mountains may be in store for a refreshing coat of white. The storm system midweek should be cold enough to drive snow levels as low as 5,000 feet. At the top of the Palm Springs Tram, and in San Bernardino County, above 6,500 feet, 5 inches or more of snow could pile up.”
Beyond this period, Tardy said it could be very wet and active through the first part of April. A brief light storm could pass over this weekend. Next week, the early indication is that another stronger storm system may be coming.
At the NWS Climate Prediction Center, analysts confirmed that the weather conditions have formed a weak El Niño, which could continue through summer.
“However, because forecasts made during spring tend to be less accurate, the predicted chance that El Niño will persist beyond summer is currently about 50 [percent],” stated the climate discussion. “In summary, weak El Niño conditions are likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2019 (~80% chance) and summer (~60% chance).”
Besides the unusual amount of rain, Tardy also said this winter is in the top 10 percent for cold temperatures