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Sonoma County needs 3 months of record rainfall to get back on track

Sonoma County is poised to receive 2 to 3 inches of rainfall by Wednesday, the wettest period in weeks that is also raising hopes of a slower start to fire season.

Over the weekend, a late winter storm released a quarter-?inch of rain on Santa Rosa, with even more landing on surrounding hills. The Mayacamas Mountains could get 2 to 3 inches this week, National Weather Service Meteorologist Steve Anderson said Sunday.

But with just 16 inches of rain to date, Sonoma County would need an unprecedented stretch of spring rainfall to catch up to its yearly average of just over 36 inches, Anderson said.

“We would have to set all-time record rainfall for the months of March and April by a magnitude of inches above anything we’ve ever seen over 150 years, and that’s not likely to happen,” Anderson said.

Record rainfall for March, April and May would get Sonoma County back to average, but again, it’s an unlikely scenario, Anderson said.

Local fire officials still took solace from the arrival of rain over the weekend following a historically dry February.

“The spring rains, in my opinion, are more important than winter rains. They delay the drying out of fuels,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville said. “It would be awesome if we could keep getting rain every couple of days through April and May.”

The drier than average conditions this year have contributed to more wildfires in Northern California, even though it’s not fire season yet. To date, there have been 252 fires consuming 273 acres, compared to 45 fires burning 55 acres last year, according to Cal Fire statistics.

In the first week of March, there were 49 fires totaling 63 acres, compared to one fire that burned less than an acre in the same period a year ago.

The cold system that brought rain to the North Coast also blanketed the Sierra with a fresh coat of snow, which will help water agencies, cities and counties that rely on snowpack to replenish their reservoirs, Anderson said. Any concern about drought is premature at this point, officials say.

“If the dry weather continues through next winter, we might start seeing some drought conditions crop up,” Anderson said.

Turbeville said he’s hopeful the wet weather will continue to buy Sonoma County time before the dangerous fire conditions return to the region.

“Any time it rains, it’s beneficial,” he said. “We don’t have fires when it’s raining - or at least significant fires. All of the dead logs and twigs gain moisture. It’s huge; it buys us more time until fire season arrives.”

You can reach Staff writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or at tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @TylerSilvy.

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