Another storm will help chip away at California drought

·5 min read

A couple of weeks after an atmospheric river dumped record rainfall and prolific amounts of snow on parts of California, the Pacific storm train delivered another helping of rain and snow to a large part of the drought-stricken state. However, this time it was in more manageable amounts.

Through the first week in November, most of the rain and snow along the West Coast has been directed toward Washington and Oregon. The break in the weather pattern come to an end last night, with an extensive storm spreading rain and mountain snow all the way from the southern Sierra through much of British Columbia. Rain and snow in the region will continue to last through the day today.

In contrast to the historic storm that struck California a couple of weeks ago, dumping almost 6 inches of rain in one day in Sacramento, California, and over a foot of rain in some spots in the Sierra foothills, this storm will be less potent but still significant.

The heaviest rain with this storm has been focused on the coastal ranges of Northern California, as well as the western slopes of the Sierra, with a general 1-3 inches of rain, and a few isolated amounts of 4 or 5 inches where the heaviest rain has been most persistent. Around 0.50 of an inch to 1.00 inch has fallen through much of the San Francisco Bay Area. Around San Francisco, the heaviest rain has occurred during the overnight hours Monday night, but some showers will linger into the Tuesday morning commute, which could lead to some travel delays.

Much of the Sacramento Valley, including Sacramento itself, is also expected to pick up 0.50 to 1.00 inches of rainfall through the end of the storm, a far cry from the record-shattering 5.41 inches that fell in the city on Oct. 24.

The threat of localized flash flooding and mudslides, especially in burn scar areas, will still exist, but the threat won't be nearly as widespread as the last storm. Small stream and poor drainage flooding will also be a hazard across Northern California.

Strong winds also slamed coastal portions of California, Washington and Oregon. Wind gusts of 30 to locally 50 mph swept across the Bay Area late Monday into Monday night, and wind advisories were issued across the region. Farther north, along the immediate coast in far Northern California and southern Oregon, wind gusts topped 60 mph. Winds have since largely subsided as the storm moves inland.

Rainfall totals through the end of the storm will taper quickly farther south. The west-facing slopes of the Central Coast Ranges in California could also receive up to 0.50 to 1.00 inch of rain through Tuesday, but inland across the San Joaquin Valley, rainfall totals are expected to remain below 0.50 of an inch and places farther south like Fresno, California, will likely pick up only 0.10 to 0.20 of an inch.

Little or no rain is expected to reach Southern California from this storm.

Los Angeles received 0.71 of an inch of rain in October, 0.49 of an inch of which came from the historic storm near the end of October, pushing the total for the month above average. However, no rain has fallen since then. Little rain in November is not altogether uncommon, however, in Los Angeles, as the normal amount of rainfall in Los Angeles for the month of November is just 0.78 of an inch.

Despite the record rainfall in Northern California last month, most of the region remains in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Reservoirs across the region are also still reporting well below-normal water levels for this time of year.

AccuWeather meteorologists point out that while this storm will bring another good dose of precipitation and will continue to help move the water tables in the right direction in the region, there's still a long way to go in terms of easing drought concerns.

Reservoir levels in California as of Sunday, Nov. 8, 2021.

In the mountains, heavy snow will also fall once again; however, in California, snow levels will remain relatively high.

"In the northern Sierra, snow levels are expected to range from 6,000 to 7,000 feet for a time Monday night into Tuesday. Farther south, accumulating snow is likely to remain generally above 8,000 feet," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins.

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"Accumulations will be around 6-12 inches for most above the snow levels, with a few spots up to 2 feet where snow is most persistent," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Nicole LoBiondo. LoBiondo added that any locations that receive up to 2 feet are likely to be well above the snow line, perhaps higher than 8,000 or 9,000 feet depending on the location.

Conditions on Interstate 80 through Donner Pass in California quickly deteriorated Monday night as roads became slick and snow covered. During the day Tuesday, milder air will arrive and a mix of rain and snow or even perhaps a change to all rain will occur through the pass, a far cry from the roughly 2 feet of snow that fell in the same spot at the end of October.

Farther north in the Cascades, snow levels will be much lower.

"In Washington and Oregon, snow levels will be around 3,000 or 4,000 feet," Adkins said. A few inches could fall through Snoqualmie Pass, creating some slippery travel along Interstate 90 on Tuesday. Heavier snow and more difficult travel are more likely through the higher Stevens Pass, located east of Seattle.

Once this storm moves on after Tuesday, forecasters say a stretch of rain-free weather is forecast for California. By Wednesday night, the stormy pattern is expected to resume across the Northwest. Another visit from an atmospheric river could aim at the Washington Cascades and last into Friday, bringing the potential for significant impacts back to that region.

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