Geeking out on this winter’s weather

I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains during the El Nino winter of 1997/98, the year that brought some pretty epic weather to the hills and California in general. That year was all about digging neighbors out from landslides, clearing flooded storm drains, and trying to get my little VW Golf up Highway 17 in the face of rivers of mud flowing down the hill.

Now I work in Los Gatos and between work and home, it sure feels like it’s been the wettest season since then. Two weeks ago we ran out into the pouring rain from the office as a flood alert was issued, to see Los Gatos Creek swiftly rising as Lexington Reservoir spilled over the dam. In the days after, Vasona Park was mostly flooded and the creeks around the west valley have been running full or overflowing ever since.

Below is a good before-and-after shot of one slice of Lexington. I’ve seen it for myself, the water is all the way up and over the tree line high on the reservoir’s banks.

Same spot, more #water

A photo posted by Zen Turtle (@zen_turtle) on

Inspired by Infospigot’s dive into Berkeley weather and how this year compares, I tried to do some of my own digging into how we in the south bay are faring.

I’ve had my own weather station in my backyard for a couple years now. I calibrate it each fall and the rain gauge tends to be very close to amounts collected at nearby Moffett Field. Tonight, however, my gauge is up 7.95 inches for the month of January. Not sure why the big difference (see below), but could be a number of issues. Maybe it needs a tune-up.

Sunnyvale-specific records aren’t easy to find and microclimates vary quite a bit, but anyone can piece some data together to get a picture of where the south bay stands. Weather data is all over the place in the links below, but the National Weather Service tallies the official results at weather stations statewide. Here are some other stats:

  • Weather Underground says nearby Moffett Field has seen 5.23 inches of rain in January. So, it’s up to about 9.8 inches since July 1, or when meteorologists reset yearly rain totals. Moffett averages over 14 inches of rain per year.
  • Weather Underground/SF Gate keep tabs on monthly rainfall totals from around the bay area. SJC gets about 14.9 inches annually and Palo Alto about 15 inches.
  • Los Gatos has almost double its monthly average in January, at over 9 inches (average almost 5). The link above shows Los Gatos at over 23 inches for the season so far — 200% of normal.
  • San Jose monthly data from meteorologist/weather pundit Jan Null shows an average of about 13 inches of annual rainfall. 2004/2005 both had healthy amounts, each nearly 23 inches for those years. National Weather Service data shows SJC at 4.38 inches for the month.

I don’t have monthly data stored (I keep telling myself I need to start logging it) but based on the above stats the trend for 2016/2017 is excellent. I’m headed to the mountains this weekend, so can’t wait to finally see all that snow up close.

Back at home, my three 55 gal. rain barrels have been full since October, and the bucket is long gone from the shower. The drought is finally ending in parts of the state. We’ll see if the rest of the winter can push the whole state over the top. Right now, even SoCal is in a good spot.


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