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Showers push L.A.'s rainfall level above annual average but make for an ugly commute

Seattle it is not, but the Los Angeles Basin has had a downright soggy year -- relatively speaking.

Monday morning’s rain showers made for an ugly commute and pushed rainfall levels over the annual average for the first time in five years, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

Monday’s storm deposited slightly more than half an inch of rain on downtown L.A., which raised the year’s total to 15.26 inches, Patzert said. The average amount of rainfall each year over the last several decades, he said, has been 15.14 inches. And, if history is any indicator, the city could get another inch or so before the current rain year closes at the end of June.

But for those Angelenos thinking the solid rainfall is license to return to long, guilt-free showers and watering gardens five days a week, Patzert has a clear message: Think again.

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The water level in Lake Mead, a Colorado River Basin reservoir that supplies Southern California, remains less than half what it should be, Patzert said. The healthy rainfall this year, along with an above-average snowpack in the mountains, will help mitigate the region’s ongoing drought, but several more years of heavier rains and snow will be needed to bring the drought to an end.

“El Niños are advertised as drought busters, but this one just hasn’t been big enough,” Patzert added, referring to the region’s current meteorological condition, in which warmer-than-normal temperatures in the equatorial Pacific bring heavier rains. “It’s definitely going to green things up and give the wildfires a lot of vegetation to burn, but as far as the drought goes, it’s been more dud than stud.”

The last several years have seen dramatic swings in rainfall in Los Angeles. Five years ago was the second wettest in recorded history, with more than 37 inches of rain downtown. Two years later, a little more than 3 inches fell, marking the driest stretch on the books.

The California Highway Patrol responded to 126 collisions on slick freeways in Los Angeles County between 4 and 9 a.m. Mon- day, Officer Monica Posada said. This was a sharp increase from the week before, when the CHP received reports of 17 accidents on a typical day.

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joel.rubin@latimes.com


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