SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — As San Francisco neared its first February without rain since 1864, federal weather monitors reported Friday that moderate drought conditions have returned to northern Contra Costa and Alameda counties and southern Solano County.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, undated each Friday by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, listed those Bay Area regions in a stage 1 drought for the first time in 2 years or longer.
For the moment, federal drought officials were labeling the drought conditions as short term, but in a short-term D1 drought residents can expect landscaping and gardens to need irrigation earlier; wildlife patterns begin to change; stock ponds and creeks being lower than usual.
“We came into the water year in good shape, which is really helping us get through this dry period. And luckily, we still have a few months left,” said David Briggs, the Manager of Water Operations for East Bay Municipal Water District.
The warm February is fooling some plants into thinking spring has arrived. Some are budding early. Flower Land Nursery Horticulturist Griff Hulsey said area residents are starting to plant early too.
“When we see nice weather, we often see way more people. And we have been recently,” said Hulsey.
Griff cautions people to always use drought tolerant plants and also warns that there is still time for cold and wet weather ahead, despite the recent warm weather
It has been 30 days since the last measurable rain in San Francisco. The longest streak of consecutive days without rain is 43 days in 2014 as the region headed into years of severe drought.
San Francisco last had a February without rain in 1864 with just 0.04 of an inch falling in 1953, 0.10 of an inch in 1899, 0.14 of an inch in 1952 and 0.19 in 1964.
Other Bay Area cities will also eclipse or tie historic records for dryness, many of them from February of 1953. In that dry year, Santa Rosa got just 0.08 of an inch, Napa got no rain, Livermore had 0.21 of an inch, San Jose just 0.02 of an inch and Salinas 0.01 of an inch.
Meanwhile, Oakland will also fall short of the 0.21 of an inch it had in 1995.
Forecasters had hoped a cold front rolling into the San Francisco Bay Area Sunday may bring some light showers. But those hopes seems to be disappearing as the front drew closer.
“It looks like the consecutive day dry spell will continue for downtown San Francisco with shower chances looking slim at best,” the National Weather Service said. “The latest (weather) model brings cold air aloft over the Central Coast on Sunday with the best chance of showers over the higher terrain of Monterey and San Benito counties.”
There was even more bad news after Thursday’s snowpack survey showed the effects of a month of warm, dry weather.
State water officials said the amount of water contained in the snowpack amounted to 72% of the Jan. 30 average. On Jan. 2, the statewide snow water content was 90% of the average, for the date.
“In comparison … to where we were just a month ago, snow and precipitation statewide were well below average but we still need to wait and see what the next few months will bring us,” said Sean de Guzman, chief of the department’s snow surveys and water supply forecasting section.
“Luckily, our reservoirs statewide are either at or above their historical averages for this time of year thanks in part to just how wet of a water year 2019 was as well as optimized reservoir operations,” he said.