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'Not A Drought-Buster'; Rare April Storm Front Moving Toward San Francisco Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The cold front bringing April showers to the San Francisco Bay Area Sunday night won't be strong enough to relieve the tinder-dry drought conditions, but the much needed precipitation will delay another historic wildfire season for now, according to the National Weather Service.

The San Francisco Bay Area has slipped back into moderate to severe drought conditions after the jet stream carried the winter storms into the Northwest and left Northern California high and dry.

On Tuesday night, Marin County became the first Bay Area municipality to adopt tough new water use restrictions as local reservoir levels continue to drop to alarming levels.

Unlike other counties, Marin depends only on reservoirs located in the coastal range and not from the Sierra for its water supply. The region has gotten less than 50 percent of its normal levels of precipitation over the last year.

Elsewhere, the hills and forests are tinder-dry again -- much drier than last fall when the region suffered through a historic 2020 fire season.

More than two million acres -- 3,125 square miles -- nearly three times the size of Chicago, Manhattan and Los Angeles combined were consumed by fire.

The wildfires burned thousands of homes, claimed dozens of lives and charred woodlands, forests and wine country v
vineyards, leaving an ugly scare visible from space.

"This storm will have little overall impact on the long term drought," federal forecasters said Wednesday. "However, confidence is increasing that most of the Bay Area will see soaking rains Sunday into early Monday. At the
very least this will put a pause into the onset of fire season as fuel moisture readings are trending towards historically dry values."

The 2020 firestorm was ignited by a severe dry lightning storm. Forecasters said it was a little too early to predict whether the weekend storm will carry the potential for lightning strikes.

A small storm front that rolled through Tuesday carried with it only light showers, but it did cause 30-plus lightning strikes in Wine Country -- a region devastated in last fall's firestorm. Fortunately no new blazes were reported.

The rain totals for Sunday into Monday will be half of an inch to an inch in the North Bay and coastal mountains with a quarter of an inch at lower elevations.

"If this pans out this will be the first rain since March 18/19," forecasters said.

A warning was also issued for Northern California residents planning weekend hiking and camping trips to the Sierra.

"Sierra passes could experience periods of heavy, wet snows Saturday night into Sunday and Monday with possible travel impacts and chain controls especially at night," forecasters said. "Mountain communities such as Tahoe, Truckee, and Bridgeport look to vary between rain and snow."

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