Garberville Area Sees Heaviest Rain Year in a Decade

The weather year that will come to a close at the end of this month was the wettest the Garberville area has seen in 10 years, two local weather watchers said last week.

It was also the first weather year in five years — like fiscal years, weather years traditionally run from July 1 through June 30 — that saw a higher than average annual rainfall total, said both Joanne Pardini and Jean Heritage.

“We’re doing better,” was the way Pardini summed things up.

Pardini doesn’t keep track of rainfall as a mere hobby. Instead, along with Heritage, who lives on 80 acres west of Redway, and Dan Gribi, who lives in the Salmon Creek area, she is a member of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network.

Known as CoCoRaHS, it’s a non-profit organization composed of thousands of volunteers from across the country that regularly record and report precipitation amounts. The results are available for anyone to see on the CoCoRaHS website.

So how much rain has fallen since July? At Pardini’s place, a 27-acre spread three miles southwest of Garberville, the answer is almost 74 inches — or approximately 15 inches more than what she normally gets.

Things have been even wetter for Heritage, who has recorded over 78 inches at her property since July 1. That’s 18 inches above the norm.

The average for both locations is based on National Weather Service records that go back to 1950. As for why Heritage gets more rain than Pardini, the explanation is due to variations in topography.

Things got off to a slow start rain-wise in 2015-2016, with less than an inch falling at Pardini’s place in October — the average for the month is 3.6 inches; and just 3.5 inches in November — not even half the 8-inch average.

Then came December and January, which saw 20 inches and 22 inches respectively — or about double the averages for those two months.

There was a pause in February, but the wet stuff returned in a big way in March, when Pardini recorded over 17 inches of rain — a whopping 10 inches more than the monthly average.

“March was amazing,” commented Pardini, who was down at Sea Ranch on the Sonoma Coast at one point during the month and couldn’t head back home on Highway 1 due to flooding.

Things turned a touch dry in April and May, with slightly below average rainfall. But it didn’t matter. The 2015-2016 weather year was clearly a wet one.

Not since 2010-2011, when 69 inches of rain fell, had there been a weather year with above average rainfall in Southern Humboldt. And not since 2005-2006, which saw 94 inches, had there been more rain.

So, is the drought over? Not according to Heritage.

“We would need to be [wetter than average] over the next four years to compensate,” Heritage said, pointing out that the four weather years that preceded this one were all on the dry side — particularly 2013-2014, when just 33 inches fell, the third driest 12-month stretch in the past 66 years.

Pardini, for her part, said the question of whether the drought is over is: “Not answerable.”

“According to the [rainfall amounts in] the Bay Area they’re not out of the drought and neither is Southern California.”

Reginald Kennedy, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service based in Eureka, pointed out that Gov. Brown’s drought declaration is still in effect.

“He hasn’t ended it,” Kennedy commented. “The southern part of the state is still below normal.”

The much-ballyhooed El Nino effect — a warming of the tropical Pacific off the coast of Ecuador that usually brings heavy rainfall to Southern California and the southwestern United States in general — “was not as big as anticipated.”

“The impacts were further north in California this year,” Kennedy commented.

As for what impacts the wet year had locally, Heritage said that in her neck of the woods, where the terrain is steep, springs started appearing at higher elevations than in recent years.

“During the rainfall events we saw high water springs opening up that we haven’t seen for the last five years,” she said, explaining that the cause was a rising water table.

Pardini, for her part, said a seasonal creek on her land that “hardly ran at all for the last several years, kept up steady from December through March.” After the heavy rains of March, it was especially “roaring,” she related.

The spring on her land that supplies her drinking and irrigation water, meantime, is “producing more right now than it has in at least four years.”

Finally, the South Fork of the Eel, which Pardini has a view of, is looking considerably healthier compared to this time a year ago.

“I’m not seeing any blue-green algae at all. And the rapids are running good,” she remarked.