Time to pull out those lonely galoshes and dust off the long-lost umbrella. It's actually supposed to rain.
A moderate storm system will amble across the Bay Area and much of Northern California on Tuesday and Wednesday, forecasters say. It's nothing like the kind of winter soaker that causes electricity outages or creeks to pour over their banks, but it should be the first significant rain for the Bay Area in nearly two months -- a hopeful sign in what's been a historically dry 2013.
"It's been a while since we've seen much rain," said Austin Cross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey. "But it's not a huge storm."
Still, the first real raindrops since a Sept. 21 storm drenched the Bay Area and brought some early snow to the Sierra Nevada are better than nothing, water district officials say. All of the Bay Area's water agencies, while not panicking, say they will need a normal-to-wet winter this year to ensure no water rationing next summer.
"Every storm counts and every drop counts," said Abby Figueroa, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides drinking water to 1.3 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
This week's rainfall should be about half an inch or slightly more, forecasters say.
"It will be about 30 hours of light rain off and on," said Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga. "The roads may be a little slippery, and with all the leaves, there will be lots of clogged gutters and storm drains."
Perhaps the most significant thing the rainfall will do before it gives way Thursday to sunny skies is all but end fire season in much of Northern California. Starting next week, CalFire will be reducing staff at its state fire stations across the Bay Area and Northern California, generally going from two engines with three firefighters each to one engine.
"It won't end fire season just yet, but it moves us closer,'' said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for CalFire. "The risk is going down in Northern California. Southern California and the Central Valley haven't changed."
The rainfall picture in 2013 has been confusing. From Jan. 1 to now, San Francisco has received only 3.94 inches of rain, the driest calendar year so far dating back to 1850, when records were first kept. San Jose, with just 2.9 inches to date, and Oakland, with just 3.39 inches, have endured similar record-dry calendar years.
But meteorologists don't measure rainfall by calendar year. They measure it from July to July, to include all the winter rains in each annual total. And last winter, in November and December, it rained roughly twice as much as normal, filling many Northern California reservoirs. Looking at the rainfall totals only from Jan. 1 is like asking somebody the score of a baseball game from the fifth to the ninth innings, experts say. It only gives half the story.
The heavy storms last November and December are the reason that no Bay Area water district has water restrictions now.
"Those rains topped off our reservoirs, and we've been in good shape through this year," said Figueroa, who noted that East Bay MUD's reservoirs are 68 percent full, which is 97 percent of normal for this time of year.
The story is similar in Silicon Valley.
The 10 reservoirs operated by the Santa Clara Valley Water District are 37 percent full, which is 81 percent of the historical average for this time of year. The water district, which serves 1.8 million people, has nearly two years' supply stored underground in Santa Clara County and at the Semitropic Water District in Kern County.
"We're in decent shape, but we need to get closer to normal precipitation this year," said James O'Brien, acting operations planning unit manager for the district.
The story is similar on the Peninsula and in San Francisco. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite, which stores much of the water for the 2.3 million residents served by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, is 78 percent full, and Crystal Springs Reservoir along Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, is 87 percent full.
"The first winter storms always result in a small sigh of relief for water utilities," said Tyrone Jue, a spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. "However, the key is for a steady dose of storms this winter to allow water reservoirs and snow pack to slowly rebuild their multiyear storage supplies."
Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN.