Yesterday evening, a decent storm passed through the Paso Robles area. It hadn't been forecast to drop too much rain (we were expecting a half-inch or so) but it turned out to be better than that. Between 6pm and midnight, we received just over 1.5" of rain, and with the wind whipping up gusts to 37mph it felt like winter for the first time in a few weeks.
Until yesterday, February has been dry and (after a cool first few days) warm. Beginning February 7th, we saw 10 consecutive days that reached at least the 70's, three times climbing into the 80's. Only three times in that stretch did the nighttime lows drop below 40°, and our last freezing night was February 5th. It's still early, but it really felt like spring, and as we watched the local almond trees burst into bloom, we were dreading the arrival of an exceptionally early budbreak. The wildflowers were starting to bloom in the vineyard.
What's more, despite the promise of our ongoing El Nino conditions, we had dropped behind even a normal year, with the Paso Robles Airport at 90% of average winter-to-date precipitation. February is typically very wet here in Paso Robles: our second-rainiest month, just after January. At Tablas Creek, an average February provides about 5 inches of rain for us, or about 20% of our annual total. So, to have the first half of the month provide zero precipitation is a significant missed opportunity, and was particularly disappointing after January (6.65", or 124% of normal) got us off to a good start.
This morning, when we arrived at the vineyard, we were greeted by a remarkable double rainbow. Two views:
Looking forward, we have a week of dry weather forecast before we're supposed to return to a wet weather pattern for the end of the month. What we really need is a few of the big soakings that used to be the norm in winters here, where we might see 3-5 inches of rain in a storm. It's not that we've received -- at least not before the last few weeks -- consistently fair weather. That was the problem the last two winters: a persistent ridge of high pressure that deflected storm activity well to the north. December 2015 saw 12 days with measurable rainfall (albeit for a total of just 1.39"), while January 2016 added a whopping 20 days with some rain. But many of these storms seemed to just miss us, with areas to the north (and even a few times, areas to the south) getting drenched, while we saw more modest totals.
Last night's storm was one of the first all winter to exceed its predicted totals. May it not be the last.