Meteorologists say rain could end fire season in Northern California

The rain won’t alleviate the state drought in the long term, but it could improve conditions this year.

rain-oct-2021
Looming clouds at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve on Oct. 19, 2021. Credit: Supriya Yelimeli

Berkeley won’t see a torrential downpour of rain this week, but the “beneficial” weather system bringing rain into the Bay Area could effectively end fire season this year, according to the National Weather Service.

It will be gloomy through the weekend with isolated showers during the day and more rain in the evening, according to NWS Bay Area meteorologist Jeff Lorber. In Berkeley, rain levels will be at around a tenth of an inch to about a half-inch, with some gusty winds in the 20 mph range.

There were power outages reported in the city on Wednesday morning, and PG&E officials said their crews are on deck to respond to the weather-related outages throughout the region.

Lorber said this will be a beneficial rain system, meaning there aren’t any flooding concerns or major detrimental effects forecast. Mostly, it will moisten the soil, refill reservoirs, lakes and streams.

That could change with another rain front that will bring heavier showers Sunday through Monday. Flooding and debris flow concerns will be most serious in areas where there are burn scars from previous wildfires.

“It looks like we’re going to get enough rain to pretty much end fire season, but we don’t make any declarations about that,” Lorber said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday declared a statewide drought, and Lorber said the forecast for rain won’t eliminate those conditions in the long term. This year’s fire season was predicted to be one of the state’s most destructive, however, and this weekend’s rain will likely be a salve.

“In the near-term, it’s definitely going to allay concerns about fires and be a good early start for the wet season, even though we’re not sure how wet it’s going to be,” Lorber said. “The last two years we’ve had a big rainfall deficit, so this is much-needed rain.”

The rain comes after a couple of hot, gusty weeks where temperatures hit 80 degrees in Berkeley and brought a Red Flag Warning to the region.

Supriya Yelimeli is Berkeleyside's homelessness and housing reporter. Email: supriya@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: SupriyaYelimeli. Phone: 510-585-8315.