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Rainfall, yes, but not enough

Times Staff Writer

For all the rain that fell Thursday, and the bit more that’s supposed to fall today, the Southland is so far behind in precipitation levels that the chance of catching up is virtually nil.

No gambler would bet on it, and neither would the weatherman.

“This is one of the largest storms thus far this year, which isn’t saying anything too impressive,” said Jamie Meier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The reason for such disparaging remarks is this: Since July 1 -- the beginning of the weather year, which runs through June 30 -- the rainfall gauge in downtown Los Angeles has registered just 2 inches of precipitation, which is 8 inches below normal for this time of year.

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“So it’s a much-needed storm,” Meier said. “We are [on the way to] the driest year on record.”

That would mean eclipsing the rain year of 2001-02, when a mere 4.42 inches was recorded. The normal yearly amount is a little more than 15 inches.

Not that the wet stuff that began falling Thursday morning wasn’t a cause for concern. Meier said the storm was expected to drop snow down to about the 3,500-foot mark.

“We should see some snow on the Grapevine, which should pose some travel hazards,” she said. About a foot of snow was expected at the 7,000-foot mark.

On Thursday, a winter storm warning was issued for the mountains of Southern California, with travel “very hazardous or impossible” above 5,000 feet because of snow, winds and fog.

The weather service was advising travelers to carry extra food, clothing and water in those areas.

About an inch to 1 1/2 inches of rain was predicted to fall on most of the coast and valleys of Southern California, increasing to 1 to 3 inches in the foothills and lower mountains.

The weather service did not issue a flash flood watch for areas burned by recent brush fires. But city of Los Angeles Fire Chief Douglas L. Barry warned Southlanders to stay out of flood control channels, which can fill quickly during a rainstorm.

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He said there are an average of 60 “swift water” rescues a year involving rivers and channels.

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michael.kennedy@latimes.com


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