Just like that, Santa Rosa breaks rainfall record
Not with a deluge but a steady rainfall, the record precipitation total for Santa Rosa was broken Thursday night, officially making it the city’s wettest year since record keeping began in 1902.
The storm brought heavy winds to the North Coast, felling numerous trees and bringing down power lines overnight.
According to the National Weather Service, more than 57.8 inches of rain have fallen since Oct. 1 as of early Friday, enough to swamp the previous record of 55.68 inches in 1983. Friday morning, Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport had received 2.39 inches of rain over the previous 24 hours, according to NWS meteorologist Anna Schneider.
Nagging precipitation was the theme of the record-setting weather. Since Oct. 1 it’s rained 92 of 188 days in Santa Rosa. For those keeping score, that’s 49 percent of the time.
And more is on the way: Just under half an inch more is expected in Santa Rosa through Saturday afternoon.
During those six-plus months, only twice did more than 3 inches fall, an amount longtime NWS forecaster Bob Benjamin pegged as indicating “significant” precipitation: Jan. 8 and Jan. 18, when 3.58 inches and 3.10 inches fell, respectively.
“The irony is that we’ve had the rainiest season we’ve ever experienced, but the flooding (hasn’t been severe),” Benjamin said. “It’s been dispersed enough to where it hasn’t inundated us. ... We’ve had years with much less rainfall (when we) had some major issues along the Russian or the Napa rivers.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by county weather watchers such as Santa Rosa Junior College meteorology instructor Art Hayssen, who has followed Sonoma County weather since 1971.
Hayssen cited the historic 1986 Valentine’s Day Flood when the Russian River swelled to a record 48.9 feet, forcing more than 1,700 evacuations and causing about $25 million in damage. Yet that rain year of Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 had just 42.5 inches of rain in Santa Rosa — not even close to cracking the top five wettest years in the weather service’s history. For comparison, this winter’s amount of rain, the river peaked at 37.82 feet on Jan. 11, according to the weather service.
“It hasn’t been as devastating as other years with lesser rain, because the rain has been spread out over the whole year,” Hayssen said.
At Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, the near constant rainfall has resulted in springs burbling up where rangers have never seen them before, said park manager John Roney, and the staff is preparing for an epic wildflower season.
This year’s weather has, surprisingly, also resulted in a 3.65 percent increase in park attendance, compared with October 2015 to March 2016 — mostly from visitors interested in checking out the Sonoma Creek waterfall.
“For every visitor the rain chased away, the waterfall attracted a new one, plus more,” Roney said.
Camping, unsurprisingly, is down 16 percent, with February camping — this season’s rainiest month, with 21 days of measurable rainfall — down 50 percent.
Along the Russian River in Healdsburg, Larry Laba, owner of Russian River Adventures, said the strong current forced him to push back his opening day from April 15 to at least April 21, the first time in his 17 years of ownership he can remember having to do that.