New Storm’s Rainfall Allows Farmers to Delay Irrigation : Weather: The most recent in a series of fronts drops another inch of precipitation. Showers are expected to continue today and Wednesday.
The most recent in a series of storms had dropped another inch of rain on much of Ventura County by late Monday, helping to restore depleted aquifers and dampening soil enough so that farmers will be able to postpone irrigation for about two weeks, experts said.
With the exception of the heavy three-day storm that ended March 1, most of the rain this month has fallen at a rate of less than a quarter of an inch an hour, allowing moisture to soak into the ground, Dolores Taylor, senior county hydrologist, said.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Taylor said.
Scattered showers were expected to continue through today and Wednesday, bringing another inch of rain to the county, said Terry Schaeffer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Santa Paula.
Schaeffer predicted that Wednesday’s showers will be followed by at least a weeklong break in the wet weather.
“After that, I’m not sure what will happen,” Schaeffer said. “It’s been a wild and woolly spring.”
Before Feb. 26, Ventura County was well into one of its driest years on record. Since then, a steady series of storms, with brief periods of respite, have brought rainfall totals to above- or near-normal levels in most areas of the county.
Since the original heavy downpour in early March, the periods of rainfall have been perfectly spaced, said Lee Waddle, a soil conservation specialist with the Ventura County Resource Conservation District.
“If we could put in an order with the Big Fellow we would order a quarter-inch of rain an hour up to about two inches coming every two to three weeks,” he said.
Although the periods of rainfall in Southern California have been more frequent, Waddle said, “the timing has been just perfect.”
Growers were preparing to irrigate last weekend when the rain began Sunday, he said.
Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Earl McPhail said the rainfall has been beneficial overall, causing little erosion damage.
Gentle but constant rain flushes out salts that collect around plant roots and that eventually choke growth. Because of the several-day intervals between storms, moisture has been allowed to soak into the soil, leaving topsoil ready for more rain.
The rains also have allowed the maximum amount of moisture to soak into the soil, Taylor said. She said one inch of rainfall generally translates to about 0.13 inches in ground-water basins.
“This should be very beneficial to the aquifers,” she said. Some aquifers in Ventura County had dropped to record low levels because of decades of over-pumping and the lack of rainfall during the recent drought, now in its fifth year. Farmers used more than two-thirds of the water consumed in Ventura County last year and depended on ground water for 86% of that amount.
“But this rain is perfect because it’s not doing any damage, and the earth can absorb what comes down,” Taylor said.
Taylor cautioned, however, that the drought is not over.
The county would need a year with three times the normal rainfall to make up for the last five dry years, she said.
The weekend rain caused no accidents or extended road closures, officials said. But Sunday night’s rainfall, which was heavy at times, caused some isolated mudslides in the city of Ventura, officials said.
Mud covered the back yard and spa of Nancy and Tom Murphy on Suffolk Court, north of Ventura Community College, in northeastern Ventura for the second time in a month.
“I think they should consider doing something about this,” Nancy Murphy, referring to city officials, said.
But John Betonte, city maintenance services superintendent, said occasional problems are to be expected when houses are built in hilly or canyon areas.
“If you build in certain areas, you stand a risk of mudslides,” Betonte said.
VENTURA COUNTY RAINFALL
As of Monday
Rainfall Rainfall normal Location Storm total year to date this time of year Ojai 1.25 17.53 18.19 Ventura 0.73 14.90 13.87 Oxnard 0.57 11.06 12.45 Port Hueneme .40 9.55 12.05 Camarillo N/A N/A N/A Thousand Oaks 0.87 10.92 13.06 Simi Valley 0.84 12.76 12.22 Moorpark 1.01 9.37 12.51 Santa Paula 1.02 16.47 15.27 Fillmore 0.91 16.23 16.29