Weather

Why celebrate the latest rainstorm? Because Northern California has set a new record

Watch Thursday's weather forecast radar as storms approach Northern California

The National Weather Service is predicting possible thunderstorms, some strong, for Thursday in the Sacramento area. Hazardous conditions are possible for travel in the Sierra.
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The National Weather Service is predicting possible thunderstorms, some strong, for Thursday in the Sacramento area. Hazardous conditions are possible for travel in the Sierra.

While you sidestep the puddles and wrestle with your umbrella, be comforted by this: Northern California is going through the wettest rainy season on record.

The region broke the 34-year-old record for precipitation in one year, the Department of Water Resources reported early Thursday.

The eight-station index for the northern Sierra Nevada, a series of rain gauges positioned from Pacific House to the city of Mount Shasta, showed that 89.7 inches of inches have fallen since the “water year” began last fall.

The old record was 88.5 inches, in 1982-83.

The record fell a week after Gov. Jerry Brown declared an official end to the drought in all but a handful of San Joaquin Valley counties. It also came after the federal government announced that agricultural water contractors south of the Delta will receive a 100 percent water allotment this year for the first time since 2006.

More precipitation was expected throughout the day Thursday, followed by two days of dry weather and then a resumption of rain starting Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

The season’s wet weather exposed the unreliability of long-range weather forecasts. Last fall meteorologists said California might experience a relatively dry winter, courtesy of the La Niña weather phenomenon.

But other than a slightly below-average November, the water year has been wet throughout. After five-plus years of drought, sporadic flooding hit areas of Sacramento, San Jose and other areas in January and February. California’s reservoirs are storing more water than they have in years.

The Sierra snowpack is 176 percent of normal for this time of year. However, the state is unlikely to break the record for snow, which was also set in the 1982-83 season. The snowpack reached 63.6 inches of “snow water equivalent” on April 1, 1983. This year, the snow water equivalent was 45.7 inches on April 1.

The state Department of Transportation said chains were required Thursday morning in the mountains on both Interstate 80 and Highway 50. Dave Wood, Caltrans' maintenance-area superintendent for the Donner Pass-Sutter/Sierra Region, warns motorists

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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