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As drought continues, La Niña is back; first winter storm could arrive before Halloween

Angel Russell
Early models indicate an atmospheric river could bring two to six inches of rain along the Central Coast Sunday into Monday

California’s historic, multi-year drought is threatening the water supply by draining local reservoirs and fueling wildfires with parched vegetation.

In a year of both extreme heat and extreme drought, a report from the California Department of Water Resources says the state has had the driest year in over a century.

Meteorologist John Lindsey said things may get worse before they get better.

“The climate models have predicted that droughts would become more severe," Lindsey said. "But on the other hand, when it does rain, there is a real possibility that rainfall events can become more intense and cause more flooding.”

Lindsey has been reporting on Central Coast weather for about thirty years. Last year, he was shocked when San Luis Obispo got up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit on September 6.

“San Luis Obispo is only, as the crow flies, about five miles from the ocean," Lindsey said. "I’ve never seen such severe temperature gradients so close to a body of water in North America, Central America, or South America. It’s really beyond description, almost.”

With depleting water in our local reservoirs, the entire state needs precipitation this winter.

Lindsey said we may not get that reprieve, since the La Niña season is back for an encore — which could bring drier conditions to an already drought-plagued region.

But, Lindsey said, there is hope.

“It’s not the end of all. We’ve had La Niña years where we’ve had really tremendous amounts of rainfall," Lindsey said. "We’ve had some very dry years and we were saved by miracle Marches at the tail end of the rain season, so I think there is always hope.”

As far as first storms go, Lindsey said early models are looking promising, indicating an atmospheric river could produce between two to six inches of rain along the Central Coast this Sunday into Monday.

“It’s nice to see a storm developing like this at the end of October," Lindsey said. And it could be an indication that maybe we will have a more normal rainfall season this year.”

While people can start dusting off their umbrellas and possibly preparing for heavy rain, Lindsey also cautioned that long-range models often change.

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