This morning, our local weather expert John Lindsey posted an impressive rainfall projection (click to see it larger) on his Twitter feed. This storm is headed our way thanks to a combination of an upper level low pressure system and abundant moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Seymour:
Those orange and red bands that he shows stretching across the Paso Robles area (look for "PRB" on the maps) suggest that areas near us should expect between 1.5" and 4" (!) of rain between this afternoon and Saturday. How unusual is this? Fairly. In an average October, we receive just over an inch of rain:
This year, we've already surpassed an average October, with 1.1" from a small storm two weekends ago. If we were to get another few inches, that would put us well ahead of our average pace. It is of course worth pointing out that while the above rainfall graph represents the average since 1942 (as listed on the Paso Robles City Web site, extrapolated for the difference between town and Tablas Creek) it never comes so regularly. California's winter weather consists of long dry stretches broken by storms that can dump multiple inches of rain in a day or two. The episodic nature of our precipitation means that it's not unusual even in a dry winter to have a few significantly wetter than normal months, or mostly dry months in what is otherwise a wet winter.
And, as happy as we are to receive rain at this time of year, doing so is no guarantee of a wet winter. We only have to look back as far as the winter of 2012-2013, when our current drought began, to see a year where the first half of the winter looked very wet indeed, but the second half didn't follow through:
At the end of December 2013, we'd already received 12.4" of rain, 152% of average winter-to-date. The rest of the winter brought less than 3" of additional rain, and the drought was on. That drought is still very much ongoing; despite some relief (particularly for Northern California) from the El Nino-fueled winter of 2015-2016 and some early rain this year, over 60% of the state is still in severe, extreme, or exceptional drought:
Long-term forecasts for this winter have generally been pessimistic on drought relief for California. Still, banking what we can now will only improve our chances of making it through this winter in good shape. We've gotten the cover crop seeded out in the vineyard, straw down on the hillside tractor paths, and are even seeing the first sprouts of green push up among the vines. Should it rain buckets, we'll be ready. Fingers crossed, please, while we batten down the hatches.