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[pct-l] State on track to log soggiest year in history

Today copyrighted story in the San Diego Union Tribune available online at

February 17, 1998=20

After a lull that filled slopes with holiday-weekend skiers, another El
Ni=F1o-spawned storm rolled in yesterday from the Pacific.

And there's more in store for the rest of the week, with four storms poised=
give Northern California one of its wettest winters ever.

"This year is definitely making a run and is on pace to certainly catch up
(1982-83 as) the wettest year in history," said James Bailey, assistant
chief of
the state Flood Operations Center.

In that year, when El Ni=F1o was first identified, California had twice the
number of winter storms.

El Ni=F1o is a tropical Pacific phenomenon in which warm water normally=
off Australia extends eastward to western South America. It took its name=
the Spanish words for baby Jesus because the warm pool usually hits the
South American coast around Christmas.

Bailey said the eight state water-measuring stations north of Sacramento are
now showing 185 percent of a normal year. By the end of the week, he said,
that could surpass 200 percent.

A fast-moving cold front blew into California yesterday, first spreading
rain and
winds across the north state and heading for the Sierra Nevada.=
and high winds accompanied the periodic downpours. The rain began last night
in San Diego County.

In the mountains, skiers celebrating the three-day Presidents' Day weekend
were preparing to drive home, only to be met by heavy snowfall and traffic

More storms are forecast through next weekend.

"It would appear at this time, if all the quantity of precipitation that is
comes through Sunday, it looks like it could be the second wettest week of=
year," Bailey said.

The storms were predicted to be cold with low snow levels in the mountains,
meaning there would be little runoff from melting snow. That is good news=
stressed dams and levees along the huge dual system of the Sacramento and
San Joaquin rivers that drains the Central Valley.

This year's series of storms has caused an estimated $275 million to $300
million damage so far in 22 of the 31 counties where Gov. Pete Wilson has
declared states of emergency. At least 10 deaths are blamed on the storms.

Damage to California farms and ranches alone has reached nearly $50 million,
the California Farm Bureau Federation said yesterday. Hit hardest are
crops along the Southern California coast and grain and hay crops in the
Sacramento Valley.

During the sunny and cloudy lull between storms Sunday and early yesterday,
residents of troubled areas had some time to repair and prepare.

Copyright 1998 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.=20
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