Shasta Lake filled to nearcapacity in early 2016

Did record Northern California rains end the drought?

It’s no secret that the weather can be fickle, if not downright inexcusable.

We’ve seen some areas of the continental United States suffer under significant drought while others experience rainfall of biblical proportions. If only a happy medium could be reached between the two, but who am I kidding?

Though not on the proportions other parts of the country recently saw with massive rain and flooding, California opened the first month of its water year (October) with one of the wettest months on record.

According to the National Weather Service, Sacramento experienced the fourth-wettest October on record with nearly 4.5 inches of rainfall. Though not excessive by some standards, keep in mind California’s Mediterranean Climate and the propensity to be dry until after Halloween.

Sacramento ended the month with about 450 percent of its normal rainfall. Measurable rain was recorded on 11 of the 31 days, which ties a record set in 1889. The volume of rain that fell is equal to 22 percent of the city’s annual precipitation of just over 20 inches.

Other records kept by the California Department of Water Resources shows that October precipitation recorded at eight different sites, from Mt. Shasta City in the north to just south of Lake Tahoe, registered nearly 400 percent of normal rainfall for the month. This was the second-wettest October on record, dating back to 1920-21.

Only Oct. 1962 was wetter than this.

This is significant because these watersheds feed northern California’s reservoirs and its major rivers. It’s also significant in that the 12.6-inch average across the eight stations is 25 percent of the 50-inch annual average across the region.

Could this portend a wetter-than-normal rainy season across parts of California – namely it’s water-rich northern half? Perhaps. But it’s probably safe not to take a rainy October to the bank just yet.

What it does suggest is that epic droughts can end, much to the chagrin of those who use them for political purposes. We’re currently seeing this in California’s attempted grab at several major rivers in an unveiled attempt to destroy the state’s agriculture industry, which generates over $100 billion annually for the state's economy in sales, processing and other ancillary costs related to food production.

Decades ago we built reservoirs and water conveyance systems to benefit a growing human population. A visit to Shasta Dam’s visitor’s center reveals the thoughts of the day when the Central Valley Project was created. Plaques and posters there point to the desire by former leaders to make water available for farmers and to address annual flood conditions by controlling the flow on major rivers.

Today these streams have become political weapons used against the very people they were originally built to serve.

 

TAGS: Water
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