Vigorous winds, lots of Pacific moisture and a Northern California weather front brought the season’s first significant rain to areas of the Central Coast Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 21 and 22, but there was a wide variance in how much rain fell where.
Some North Coast neighborhoods got a healthy smattering of precipitation, while others got a good drenching, such as near the headlands of the San Simeon and Santa Rosa creeks.
PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey said in an email forecast Tuesday morning that inconsistencies in the rain totals were due to “orographic enhancement as the moist northwesterly air mass flows over Santa Lucia mountains.”
In other words, in that kind of storm, more rain tends to fall at higher elevations. As Lindsey has said in the past about higher-elevation rainfall, “It’s like wringing water from a wet mop.”
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By late Tuesday afternoon, despite gusty winds, firefighters said they hadn’t yet received any storm-related calls, although there had been two fender-bender accidents Monday in Cambria. One was at Highway 1 and Ardath Drive about 9 a.m., and the other near Main and Arlington streets in West Village. No injuries were reported at either accident.
Bill and Shirley Bianchi said Tuesday afternoon that water finally was running again in San Simeon Creek, after the area had received about 2.5 inches of rain since Monday morning.
The county’s Rocky Butte rain gauge is about six miles directly east of Hearst Castle, at 3,400 feet above sea level. Cambrian columnist Michele Oksen reported Tuesday that the latest rainfall brought the season total there to nearly 16 inches.
Dawn Dunlap said about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday that the storm had dumped 2.53 inches of rain on the Walter Ranch since Monday morning, for a season total of about 11.5 inches.
The ranch is at 1,100 feet above sea level, nine miles east of Santa Rosa Creek Road’s intersection with Main Street, as the crow flies.
Closer to the coast, however, George and Beth Kendall’s Santa Rosa Creek Road farm got 1.75 inches during the same period, she said of their property that’s 2.5 miles from the Main Street turnoff.
Lots more rain will be needed, however, before agriculturists, firefighting and services district officials are ready to consider that the punishing four-year drought might be over.
“It’s really difficult to explain how dry these hills are,” Shirley Bianchi said. “The hills have to be really saturated if water is to continue draining down into the watershed below. It’s like a kitchen sponge on its side on your sink; the water slowly drains out the bottom of the sponge. That’s what these hills do.”