It's not even the end of November, but weather watchers are already calling this year one of the driest on record in California.
"We're really off to a dismal start," said National Weather Service Hydrologist Gary Barbato in the agency's Reno office.
In fact, the skies have been so dry over Northern California that "so far we're tied for one of the driest years on records," Barbato said.
The last storm bringing any significant rain to the region dropped about three-quarters of an inch at weather service stations in Napa and Vacaville Nov. 19-21.
There's not been much snow in the mountains, either.
The crucial Sierra Nevada snowpack -- which supplies water to many local municipalities and myriad other customers throughout California -- is pretty thin, Barbato said.
Meanwhile, the prospect of rain and snow in the near future is not great.
Locally, regional conditions are expected to be dry or nearly dry the rest of the week, including Thanksgiving and Friday.
Weather forecasters had recently projected rain Wednesday and Thursday of this week but have lifted that forecast, according to the weather service office in Monterey.
It's too early to tell just how wet this winter will be, but state water officials hope California is not heading for its third consecutive dry year.
With the state in its second dry year, the Department of Water Resources announced that contractors, such as cities and farmers, would get just 5 percent of their deliveries in 2014.
The recent storm did not produce enough precipitation to increase the allocation, state water department information officer Ted Thomas said.
"It remains the same for now," Thomas said.
That, however, could all change, he added.
"California's weather is very unpredictable. We could have a dry December and January and then heavy precipitation in March and April. There's no normal schedule," Thomas added.
The state water department does not make its final determination of how much water contractors will get until May when the curtain on the rainy season has officially closed.
After a second consecutive dry year, state water officials this year were able to deliver only one-third of contractors' usual annual water supplies.
The final allocation this year was 35 percent of the 4.17 million acre-feet requested by agencies which deliver water to more than 25 million Californians, and 700,000 acres of farmland in the Santa Clara Valley, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California.
Storage levels in the state's major reservoirs largely dictate the initial state water allocation, according to the agency.
In 2012, the final allocation of water deliveries was 65 percent, and 80 percent in 2011.
California normally receives more than 90 percent of its snow and rain December through April.
If 2014 turns into another dry year for California, the greatest risks for public health and safety would be the increased chances for major wildfires, and from drinking water shortages in some rural small water systems, the state reported.
At the National Weather Service, Barbato said the long-range weather forecasts are not very encouraging.
They give Northern California and other parts of the west about a 50-50 chance of above normal rainy conditions the rest of the season.
Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.
©2013 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.)
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