California gets a badly needed break from drought

SAN FRANCISCO - For the first time in months people in San Francisco needed their umbrellas on Thursday.

The rain caused problems during the morning commute for drivers unaccustomed to wet roads.  At Pebble Beach, the annual pro-am golf tournament was suspended because of rain.

It was a small let-up in California's record drought.

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"The drought's probably not over but it does look like a break," said meteorology professor John Monteverdi of San Francisco State University.


 He finds more encouragement in a long-term forecast for next winter, the possible return of El Nino.

Models developed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography predict a growing pool of warm water in the Pacific Ocean.  That creates the El Nino weather pattern that often means a wetter than normal California winter.

 But not always.

"There's no absolute way of saying 'Yes, we're going to have an El Nino,' and second that means a lot of precipitation on the West Coast," Monteverdi said.


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The near term forecast is more certain: a lot of rain heading to northern California this weekend. That weather system is described as an atmospheric river.

"It looks like a narrow tongue of water that sort of resembles an ocean current as it comes to the coast," Monteverdi said.

"The government's Climate Prediction Center estimates there is a 49 per cent chance of El Nino developing later this year.  That's a higher probability than normal but far from certain.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.