Is Auburn having its driest December?

This month’s rainfall fourth lowest since 1849
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn, CA - December hasn’t been the driest month on record, but it is getting close. The Sacramento area has recorded .7 inches of rainfall so far this month, the fourth lowest since 1849, according to Johnny Powell, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. The years 1876 and 1989 had no measurable rain during December and 1999 saw only .3 inches of precipitation, he said. For the Auburn area, the Auburn Municipal Airport has recorded .8 of an inch of rain in the past 10 days and 3.58 inches since Oct. 1, the bulk of that from an early storm system in October. But the dry weather is unlikely to be a season-long trend. “The year we started out with .3 of an inch of rain in December (1999), we ended up with 23.74 inches for the year,” Powell said. “There was a lot of rain in January, February and March.” Although we’re still in a La Nina pattern, this year is vastly different from last year, when fall storms brought early rain and a bounty of snow in the Sierra during November and December. “We look at it from year to year,” Powell said. “We’ve gotten some of our biggest floods from (years that were) neither El Nino or La Nina. So it doesn’t always correlate to that.” The long dry spell this month is because of a summer-like high pressure ridge that set up and has remained in place. “Once it breaks down, the rain will come in,” Powell said. “The long-range monitor looks like a storm track will be over us in early January.” Ski resorts looking forward to anticipated precipitation That’s very good news for Sierra ski resorts, which so far have had to keep snow-making guns in high gear. “Historically we don’t get a ton of snow in December,” Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Jenny Kendrick said. “Last year’s (snowfall) was definitely a phenomenal and out of the ordinary thing. This year is a little different and we’re getting a later start, but we’re hoping it will come full force in January.” Alpine and Squaw Valley, which now are under the same ownership, have 11 lifts and 15 terrain parks in operation between the two resorts. “You can start at one resort and get on a shuttle and get to the other resort, so there’s plenty to do,” Kendrick said. Christmas and New Year’s weeks are typically a very busy time and Kendrick is optimistic the lack of Mother Nature-made snow won’t be a detraction. “I think people will decide to come up if they have plans to stay up here for the holidays,” she said. “There’s still skiing to be had, but it is not the nice fun powder we are looking for.” Folsom Lake prepping for flood protection At Folsom Lake, water levels are on track with the 15-year average, Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Pete Lucero said. The focus at this early point in the winter season is to be ready for what may be ahead. “We have a flood space requirement we must meet within the reservoir,” he said. “It is a multi-use reservoir — flood protection is primary for downstream protection. This fall, we had some pretty good storage in Folsom. And in anticipation of what we thought the weather (was bringing), we’ve had to make flood releases to ensure we had flood reservation space in the reservoir.” Folsom Lake has a capacity of 977,000 acre feet and currently is at 45 percent capacity with 435,000 acre feet of water. “This time last year, the lake was at 512,000 acre feet,” Lucero said. “The 15-year average for this date is 432,000 acre feet.” Reach Gloria Young at