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Storm System Leaves Hardly a Trace of Rain

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A weak cold front moving through Southern California on Wednesday triggered brief downpours in some South and North Orange County communities, but left little more than wet blotches on dusty sidewalks and car hoods in other areas.

By Wednesday evening, the main part of the storm had passed, leaving measurable amounts of rain in only a handful of counties. Another storm is expected tonight, forecasters said.

Only one city in Orange County--Santa Ana--reported a rain accumulation of more than a tenth of an inch, said meteorologist Marty McKewon of WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts to The Times.

Fullerton and Yorba Linda each received .08 inch, and El Toro and Laguna Beach each had accumulations of .04 inch, the minimum measurable amount, county hydrologist Shai Betal said.

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“It wasn’t very much of a rainy day,” Betal said.

The storm left a taste of winter, however, with high temperatures reaching only the low to mid-60s, mostly due to a thick cloud cover.

But conditions were not severe enough to prompt the opening of the county’s two National Guard armories, which serve as homeless shelters in inclement weather.

Many homeless advocates have questioned why the armories have not yet been in use and whether the armory program has been effective enough in Orange County. Many advocates cite the example of the San Fernando Valley, where armories are open for an average of 50 nights each winter. Last winter in Orange County, armories were only open 14 nights.

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Orange County officials point out that weather conditions are vastly different here than in the San Fernando Valley.

Under guidelines established by the state, the armories can open when temperatures are forecast to be below 40 degrees, or below 50 degrees with a 50% or better chance of rain.

Since the program got under way Dec. 1, weather conditions have not met the criteria to open the armories in Fullerton and Santa Ana, said coordinator Dianne Edwards.

“We have been monitoring very carefully, and temperatures have not been cold enough, even though isolated parts of the county may be colder than others,” Edwards said.

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McKewon said Wednesday’s storm, which formed in the Gulf of Alaska, was difficult to gauge.

“It was an odd one,” McKewon said. “It just sat out over the ocean for a day and then moved in.”

Before reaching Southern California, the storm front drenched parts of Northern and Central California, with Sacramento receiving more than 1 1/2 inches of rain.

“That’s where all the energy and moisture went,” McKewon said. “By the time it got to Southern California, it had no energy left.”

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WeatherData’s Ken Smith said the storm was expected to drop only light snow on local ski resorts. “It’s not a very optimistic outlook for people looking for ski weather,” he said.

Smith said that another front forming off the Gulf of Alaska will move into the area late today or Friday, and will increase chances for a more powerful rainstorm tonight or Friday. Forecasts for the weekend call for a slight chance of rain, with high temperatures ranging in the upper 50s to low 60s.

Smith said the conditions for a storm strong enough to put a dent in the drought have not appeared and are unlikely to form soon.

“There’s just not the right stuff to trigger a lot of heavy rain,” he said.

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Times staff writer Carla Rivera contributed to this story.


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