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More Rain Needed To Reduce Fire Danger, Stave Off Future Drought

SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) -- More than a month and a half into this year's rainy season and significant precipitation was finally falling on Tuesday in Northern California. The state could use it in more ways than one.

"If we could get these systems where we get upwards of a half inch to an inch, with enough time in between each other to relieve our soils and relieve our creeks," said Paul Lowenathal of Cal Fire, referring to optimal rain conditions for the North Bay.

Rain fell on Santa Rosa's Skyhawk community Tuesday afternoon and it was just the right amount: not heavy enough to threaten mudslides in burn scars, but enough to reduce the fire threat.

"Yeah, the system we had a week or so ago was definitely not enough to end fire season," Lowenathal said. "It was followed up with another round of warm sunny days."

So Tuesday's rain was more welcome news. Cal Fire would like more of it.

"So really, what we're looking for is systems like this to come through and continue slow and steady. So we really start saturating not only our seasonal grasses, but our brush and our timber, moving into the winter months," Lowenathal explained.

Longer steadier rain would also help Northern California's water reserves.

"The thing that worries me about this water year is that the reservoirs are going in at about 70% or 80% of what their long-term average would be for this time of year," said Jay Lund with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

On the water storage side, rain is always good news. But California's bank accounts -- its largest reservoirs -- are showing that the state had to borrow last year. As Lun explains, it takes a few years to get into a drought.

"We're coming into this year as a potentially second dry year," he said.

At this point, another dry year would certainly move the state in drought direction. As of Tuesday, California is off to a late start.

"But the good news is that the amount of water you get in October-November doesn't have that much to do with how much you get by the end of the water year," said Lund. "So there's still plenty of opportunity to make up
for this very dry October-November."

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