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January 9, 2014
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There's no rain: Dry weather ushers in drought-like conditions


Public officials, members of the ski industry and agriculturalists are fretting about the persistent sway that dry weather continues to hold over Northern California.

“We’re dry,” said National Weather Service Forecaster George Cline. “We’re going to be in a big hole, it’s fair to say.”

Even if large atmospheric river events strike the region, that could bring about serious concerns relating to flooding, Cline said.

Such an event is unlikely, anyway, if the climate prediction center the National Weather Service uses has any degree of accuracy.

The prediction models currently prognosticate a below-normal precipitation level for the remainder of January, Cline said. The same prediction models have a slightly below-normal precipitation level for the rest of the wet season in Northern California, which typically ends around May.

“It’s a little better, but it’s not good news,” Cline said.

In the short-term, a storm system looks poised to give the parched region a little reprieve on Saturday. A total of 5 inches of snow may accumulate in the higher elevation portions of the Sierra, Cline said. The models shows another storm, about 10 days out in the Pacific, hitting the region.

However, Cline is tempering enthusiasm, saying similar models have shown storm systems staying together and pouring precipitation into the region, but it has yet to materialize the way the computer-generated simulations predict.

Meanwhile, fire officials are scrambling to make sense of conditions they usually witness in May or June.

Firefighters in Humboldt County finally wrapped up containment of the Red Fire, which burned more than 300 acres. Crews are still attacking the Campbell Fire, a 500-acre fire that stands at 35 percent containment.

“To say that is highly unusual to have two wildland fires in January would be an understatement,” said Brad Harris, Chief of the Nevada Yuba-Placer unit of Cal Fire. “Cal Fire is currently looking at staffing some engines and hiring a few firefighters. Our engines are usually not staffed at this time of the year.”

Harris said the energy release components of plant life are at levels typically seen at the beginning of the summer.

“Fuels are burning and burning with some intensity,” he said.

Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, forest fire chief for the Tahoe National Forest, said her firefighters are still atypically busy considering the time of year.

“This is the first time our crews have ever worked on Christmas,” she said.

John Monson, spokesman for Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, acknowledged the ski industry is hurting from a lack of snow.

Royal Gorge, a cross country resort recently acquired by Sugar Bowl, has been shuttered due to the dry conditions that persist on the summit. “It’s a tough go,” Monson said.

However, Sugar Bowl is still open top to bottom with 25 different runs available, he said.

“You can get your turns, but it’s tough to explore and run side to side on the mountain,” he said.

Donner Ski Ranch has remained closed as there is not enough snow to open the lifts, according to its website.

“(We are) anxiously awaiting more snow from Mother Nature,” a recent post reads.

The Nevada Irrigation District is also preparing for a drought as reservoirs throughout the water agency’s elaborate system are hovering at 59 percent of capacity, said NID Operations Manager Chip Close. While the levels are at 92 percent of average for this time of year, typically this is the time of year that NID is replenishing its reservoirs with water derived from freshly fallen rain and snow, Close said.

“It is decreasing continuously,” Close said. “Keep in mind we are on such a small scale that our average numbers look OK, but we are trying to conserve as much as possible.”

The Bowman station, where NID measures rainfall, shows that 8.39 inches of precipitation has fallen in the area, which is 29 percent of average, he said.

NID General Manager Rem Scherzinger said customers will pay for only what they get if the drought persists into the irrigation season. Officials said that water allotments could be cut by as much as 50 percent if the rains don’t come.

“We are hopeful for some rain and snow,” Close said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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The Union Updated Jan 10, 2014 10:38AM Published Jan 12, 2014 02:06PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.