The past week has been lovely for enjoying California’s outdoor splendor, with warm temperatures and clear, blue skies ushering in a welcome change from such a wet, dreary winter. Bring on spring!
But while the Golden State might be through with winter, winter is not through with the Golden State. Forecasts are calling for precipitation, widespread and light — save for scattered cloudbursts — and cooler conditions starting Wednesday. A second round of unsettled weather, perhaps a little weaker and quicker, is coming late Friday into Saturday.
Looking beyond that, how about another atmospheric river to go atop the 20-plus that already have struck the state?
Once this winter ends — if it ever does — we can get an assessment of what an amazing run it’s been. Consider just one pinpoint on the map: Squaw Valley ski resort, where this season’s snowfall measures an astounding 618 inches (better than one-third above its annual average) and the current base is around 220 inches. An Independence Day skiing holiday, anyone?
In another corner of the state — near Lake Elsinore, on the opposite side of the Santa Ana Mountains from Orange County — rainfall has produced a “super bloom” of wildflowers that are getting loved to death by a super-stampede of tourists.
Looking at the big picture, it doesn’t get much bigger than having one wet winter (and two in the past three years) end the drought everywhere in California. After all, this is one of the world’s most important hubs of agriculture, so water is precious — and had been in short supply.
The U.S. Drought Monitor declared the state drought-free last week for the first time since 2011.
Wednesday’s system isn’t expected to drop much precipitation; forecast maxes are 1½ inches of rain in the Santa Lucia Range running southeast from Monterey and a foot of snow in the Sierras near Lake Tahoe. (However, if that prediction for rainfall in the area near Big Sur misses low, watch out for trouble on the slide-challenged Pacific Coast Highway between Carmel and Cambria.)
This cold, upper-level low is carrying enough instability for thunderstorms — boosted by the angle of the mid-March sun. In the San Joaquin Valley, the National Weather Service has given a heads-up on the potential for small hail, funnel clouds and lightning strikes.
Meanwhile, double-digit drops in temperatures are expected across the state. But by now, everyone is used to the cool weather (although the snow in places such as Pasadena and Thousand Oaks caught everyone by surprise). Downtown Los Angeles, for example, went nearly six weeks without a day when the highs reached the 70s — the fifth-longest stretch on record, dating back to 1877.
February’s frigid weather stood out on a global scale, as the western half of North America was about the only region on Earth to have temperatures much cooler than average.