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Steady rainfall tapers off Tuesday as North Bay waits for official end to fire season

The strongest storm of the season doused the North Bay Tuesday, dropping more than an inch of rain in the wettest spots and enough elsewhere to revive streams that had grown narrow and languid throughout the long dry months.

The totals ranged from a high mark in Cazadero, which recorded 1.15 inches as of 5:30 p.m., to more scant rainfall in Petaluma, which reported less than a quarter of an inch. Sebastapol came in at 0.7 and Santa Rosa at three-quarters of an inch.

The figures were expected to increase overnight into Wednesday morning as showers passed through the county.

“We might still have few scattered showers as we go into the 11 o’clock hour but a lot of it phases out as we head past noon,” said Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It’s not going to be widespread.”

It was the second bout of rain in Sonoma County in the span of a week after a lighter front dampened the region on Friday. Still, it has not been enough to officially end the region’s long and destructive fire season.

Tyree Zander, a spokesman for Cal Fire, which determines when the season is over in the North Bay, said the agency was unlikely to make that call this week.

Even with the recent rainfall, the landscape still abounds with dry fuel after a scorching summer and fall, Zander said.

Cases from California’s recent past reflect the late-season danger. The state’s deadliest blaze, the Camp fire, exploded two years ago in early November, and one of the largest, the Thomas fire, burned close to 282,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties after igniting on Dec. 4, 2017.

“The long-range weather forecast does not lend any confidence to terminating fire season at this time,” Zander said.

Tuesday’s rain was steady but not strong enough to trigger flooding in low-lying areas or debris flows in the the Walbridge or Glass fire burn scars of Sonoma County.

An accompanying cold front caused daytime temperatures to dip into the high 50s and low 60s. Wednesday is expected to be slightly warmer, Murdock said. Beyond that, the next chance of rain isn’t until early next week.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com and Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412.

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