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Desperately-Needed Rainfall from Bomb Cyclone, Atmospheric River Gives Hope For North Bay Drought Recovery

LAKE MENDOCINO (KPIX 5) -- This was a storm that came with expectations, not just for what the weekend might look like but what it could mean in the larger context of crawling out of two years of drought. It was just one storm, but it did not disappoint.

The morning came, the storm had passed, and before everyone's eyes a different landscape emerged. In the wake of the atmospheric river, which combined with the so-called "bomb cyclone," the North Bay is now basking in the glory of an epic storm that was desperately needed.

"It was a great weekend for us water nerds, and water managers" says Brad Sherwood of the Sonoma County Water Agency. "This storm is actually bigger than we forecasted and thought."

Last week, the East Fork of the Russian River was barely crawling into Lake Mendocino. Now, the river is carrying the weekend storm, and as of Monday, the lake was up 5,000 acre-feet.

"Lake Sonoma, just from this rainfall, has received over 13,000 acre-feet into that reservoir," said Sherwood.

"One of our smallest lakes, Phoenix Lake, is spilling now," said Marin Municipal Water District spokeswoman Emma Detwiler.

Marin County is now in the midst of its wettest October since 1890, and the storm has had a dramatic impact on the water system.

"We have ended up with 17" total, and that brought our reservoir levels are up just over 11%," Detwiler says.  "And we actually expect the next couple of days our reservoir levels to continue to rise as the additional wrong way down and into the reservoirs."

A few more storms like this one and Marin could very well find itself with reservoirs that are completely recharged. In Sonoma County, it will take more rain and more time, but the first step was getting the ground saturated enough that it could carry runoff to the reservoirs.

They thought they needed 7" to 10" and that's exactly what they got over the course of one weekend.

"Absolutely," Sherwood says. "This atmospheric river set us up for success."

Wet ground means we can fully capitalize on the next storm, and we want that before too long. While the area definitely want to dry out a bit, a long break would be bad news. A full month without some more significant rain, and that invaluable ground soaking will start to dry out.


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