Soggy month gets Nevada off to a good start of water year
November 2, 2004
RENO, Nev. (AP) – October ended with a stormy spell that got the state off to a robust start on its new water year, with all areas reporting precipitation that was well above average. Reno came in at nearly four times normal.
While weather experts caution that one good month means little after five years of drought, National Weather Service hydrologist Gary Barbato did some research that leaves room for optimism.
Barbato dug up the 10 wettest Octobers in Reno and in Tahoe City, Calif., and found that in Reno, eight of the water years that followed soggy Octobers were average or above average. On the California side of the Sierra, seven of the wettest Octobers were followed by water years that came in at normal or above.
The water year begins Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30.
While October normally is not very productive, Barbato said northern Nevada is entering its traditionally wet period of November through March.
“That’s when we get most of our water supply,” he said. “Right now, we’re right up there. Every day we don’t get precipitation in those months, our percentages fall considerably.”
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Last month brought 1.58 inches of precipitation to Reno compared with its average of 0.42 inches for the month, giving the city its fifth wettest October on record. The years 1982 and 1933 tied for third with 1.65 inches. The wettest was in 1945, with 2.14 inches, followed by 1.74 inches in 1907. Of those, only 1945 had a below average water year.
Last month was sixth wettest at Tahoe City with 5.23 inches of melted precipitation. The most moisture in October at Tahoe City was 8.34 inches in 1962, followed by 6.67 inches in 1975, 6.42 inches in 1956, 6.42 inches in 1950 and 5.9 inches in 1945. All of those years except 1975 were average or above.
Wet weather was a statewide event last month with Las Vegas receiving 0.59 inch, more than twice its 0.24 average.
Elko received 1.96 inches of precipitation, almost three times its 0.71 inch average. Ely was dampened by 2.32 inches, nearly twice its 1-inch norm and Winnemucca received 1.58 inches compared with its average of 0.66 inches.
Tom Pagano, water supply forecaster for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Portland, Ore., also was heartened by the recent storms.
“It’s early and it’s a big amount,” he said. “I don’t want to give a sense of irrational exuberance, but this is certainly reason for cautious optimism.”
While the stormy weather still left Lake Tahoe about 6 inches below its spillways, which feed the Truckee River, there was enough runoff to let the Truckee Meadows Water Authority stop tapping its drought reserves to keep faucets flowing in the Reno area.
Peering into the future, Barbato said forecasters believe a mild El Nino may contribute to a wetter winter than normal along the West Coast, particularly in the southern areas.
While the next few months are expected to be about normal, Barbato said storms could edge northward as the year progresses.
“It’s looking like they’re thinking the late spring might be wet,” he said.
A storm forecast to push into the Sierra and western Nevada on Wednesday was not expected to drop a lot of precipitation, although it was likely to add a little powder in the Sierra, where a handful of ski resorts already have opened some runs.
“A third, a half inch. Maybe 3 to 5 inches of snow in the mountains. Every bit helps,” Barbato said.
On the Net: National Weather Service Web site: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/rev