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Is It Enough Rain For Drought-Stricken California?

The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir is seen on Friday, in San Jose, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez
The cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir is seen on Friday, in San Jose, Calif.

California, which has been experiencing its worst drought on record, is welcoming some heavy rainfall this weekend, but it's still too early to say if it signals a wholesale quenching of dried up streams and farm fields.

NBC News says:

"Until Saturday, the San Francisco Bay Area had gotten only 3 inches of rain this season; it normally would have received 14.5 inches of rain at this point. But rain was falling at the rate of a half-inch per hour Saturday in some parts of the area — 4 inches in Sonoma County and as much as 3 inches in San Francisco and San Jose."

And, The Associated Press reports that:

"A persistent wave of low pressure will continue to usher precipitation across the western U.S. on Sunday, while a cold frontal boundary is expected to shift across the central U.S."

The San Jose Mercury News says the drenching is a result of something scientists call "an atmospheric river," or sometimes "the Pineapple Express" because they are formed in the Pacific Ocean before scudding eastward to hit California.

"It's really great. It's so needed. But it doesn't mean people should stop conserving," Andrea Pook, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, told the Mercury News.

City Council member Bruce Burton tells The Associated Press that he cheered seeing the water levels in a local reservoir and his backyard pond creeping up and small streams flowing again, but he's greeting it all with "guarded optimism."

"We are a long ways from where we need to be, but we have to start with some sort of a raindrop," Burton said.

The Mercury News says:

"This weekend's storms will offer a reminder of what winter looks like after California suffered in 2013 through the driest year since it became a state in 1850, with reservoirs at record-low levels, farmers fallowing fields and fire danger high.

" 'Most likely we'll get ponding on the roadways, and urban and small stream flooding,' said Larry Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey. 'You could see some minor mud slides. It's definitely going to be a messy weekend.' "

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.