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Rain to greet new year in San Francisco

Wet winter continues, but SF still lags behind historical averages

Union Square at night, with the ground wet from rain. Photo by f8grapher/Shutterstock

The Bay Area’s wet and windy winter will return to San Francisco for the new year with more rain forecast in the coming days, although it’s likely that the deluge will hold off until the weekend.

According to the National Weather Service [NWS], there’s a roughly 30 percent chance of rain starting Friday morning, which will then jump up to 70 percent Saturday. The NWS forecast includes at least a “slight chance of showers” through Tuesday night.

The Weather Channel poses an even more aggressive forecast, putting the odds of rain in SF on Saturday at 100 percent and estimating the chances of more storms on Sunday at 80 percent. In fact, that forecast marks a 40 percent chance of rain continuing through next Wednesday.

San Francisco skies have been volatile since November. After well-timed rains banished the wildfire smoke from California skies, storms have become frequent visitors to the area, bringing with them occasional warnings of flooding and dangerous waves.

While precipitation was frequent in 2018 it was not particularly robust; according to Golden Gate Weather Services, SF only received about 72 percent of its median yearly rainfall through December 25 last year, with similar totals in surrounding areas.

Comparatively, Southern California was unexpectedly drenched this season, with areas like San Diego, Los Angeles, and Irvine getting well more than 100 percent of their annual median; that adds up to less rain in total that fell on the northern side of the state.

In all the U.S. Drought Monitor estimates that California is in a fairly dry state right now, but the frequent storms are keeping potentially disastrous drought conditions from returning.

According to the latest state drought map (issued last week), more than 75 percent of the state is experiencing “moderate drought,” but only about 16.24 percent is in a state of “serious drought” or worse, and areas of “extreme drought” have actually receded in recent weeks, down to 2.1 percent from nearly five percent three months ago.