Three fresh storms aimed at Sacramento, Sierra

Three more rainstorms took aim at the Sacramento area Monday, as the region’s dry spell continued to gradually give way to more normalized winter conditions.

The National Weather Service said Monday’s foggy conditions were expected to turn rainy as the day wore on, with most of the rain not forecast until late in the evening. The rainy weather was expected to let up shortly after the Tuesday morning commute.

The first storm was expected to remain fairly warm and bring “pretty minimal” snowfall to the Sierra Nevada, said forecaster Cory Mueller. But the second rainstorm, expected to begin Wednesday night and extending into Friday, would bring much cooler temperatures and heavier snow, he said.

Much of the Sierra Nevada “will see about a foot,” Mueller said. “The Donner Pass will see 12 to 18 inches.” By Friday, snow could be falling at elevations as low as 3,000 feet, he said.

A third storm, expected to begin Sunday, looks like “another cooler system, so we should be able to add to the snowpack,” Mueller said.

Last week’s rainstorm put a significant dent in the region’s water deficit. The 2.38 inches of rain that fell in Sacramento was the most ever recorded for the date, Jan. 8. All told, Sacramento’s rainfall is 82 percent of normal for the “water year,” which began Oct. 1, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

But even as rainfall statistics have been improving, water officials have kept a nervous eye on the Sierra snowpack, which remains just 25 percent of normal. A healthy snowpack acts as a second set of reservoirs and can keep water supplies running smoothly during summer and fall. In a good year, the snowpack can generate 30 percent to 40 percent of the state’s total water supply.

A relatively modest rainstorm was expected to hit Southern California, where mudslides killed 20 people in Montecito last week, starting Thursday. The weather service said the Montecito area could expect 0.1 to 0.2 inches of rain.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler