SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — While it won’t be a drought buster, an April storm front rolling into Northern California early Sunday will bring much needed showers and allergy relief to the San Francisco Bay Area and dump over a foot of snow in the higher elevations of the Sierra.
Forecasters say it would take several storms the size of the weekend weather front to break the grip a severe to extreme drought has across the Bay Area.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of seven Bay Area counties are experiencing extreme drought conditions. Downtown San Francisco is currently experiencing its 4th driest rainy season with just 8.72 of precipitation and hasn’t had a measurable rainfall since mid-March.
The showers will begin in earnest around 6 a.m. Sunday, quickly spreading across the Bay Area and then moving out by the late afternoon.
“Rainfall chances will initially develop over the North Bay Saturday night and then spread southward through the rest of the Bay Area on Sunday,” weather service forecasters said. “At this point it doesn`t appear to be a big storm by any means, but much needed rainfall will be possible.”
KPIX 5 meteorologist Darren Peck said the showers will clear the Bay Area skies of pollen, bringing several days of relief for allergy suffers who have been miserable during the dry spell stretching back to the last rainshowers in mid-March.
By the time the rain ends, much of the region will get a quarter of an inch or more of precipitation. The storm’s impact will be much stronger in the Sierra.
“For the Tahoe Basin and Alpine County, 2 to 6 inches were possible at Lake Tahoe level with 6 to 12 inches above 7000 feet,” weather service forecasters said. “Along the Sierra Crest, 12 to 18 inches is possible. Winds could gust up to 45 mph in the lower elevations with gusts up to 80 mph along the Sierra Crest.”
A Winter Weather Advisory was set to go into effect at 3 a.m. Sunday and run until 5 a.m. Monday. The blizzard conditions will help replenish the rapidly dwindling snowpack.
Dan McEvoy, a researcher with the Western Region Climate Center, told KPIX 5 he was startled to discover that several locations in Sierra had seen the biggest decline in snowpack’s water content on record for the time span covering the first three weeks of April.
At several key reporting locations across the Sierra range, the water content being stored within the snowpack has lost almost half of what was there at the start of the month.
That comes in the wake of a California’s Department of Water Resources survey on April 1 which found the snowpack in the central Sierra was 63% of the average or 16.5 inches.
Typically the snowpack is at its highest on April 1. However, since that date, the snowpack in the central Sierra has declined significantly to just 37% of average.
McEvoy said while many factors were at play in such an alarming rate of loss, the primary culprit is the intense warmth California experienced over the past month. Much of Northern California experienced temperatures 4-degrees above average for the period.