Jeffrey Warburgh, a North Berkeley neighbor, braves the rain and cold to pick up bread at Cheese Board on Dec. 1. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Don’t take off your rain boots quite yet: Nearly two more inches of rain could be headed toward Berkeley this week. 

The city is expected to see between a quarter to a third of an inch of rain Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service. A second, slightly stronger storm, is expected to arrive Friday night and last through Saturday afternoon, and will likely drench Berkeley in 1 to 1.5 inches of water. 

Both are expected to be “pretty light, quick systems,” and conditions are expected to dry out on Monday, said Jeff Lorber, a NWS meteorologist. 

Temperatures are expected to remain chilly, with daytime temperatures hovering in the mid 50s and overnight lows in the upper 30s. If you’re planning to go outside during the weekend, bring a warm jacket, as meteorologists are expecting strong gusts of wind in the 25 mph to 30 mph range.

The NWS is not expecting widespread floods, but some ponding of water on roadways and in areas with poor drainage is to be anticipated. Those residing in areas that regularly flood during storms, such as parts of West Berkeley, should prepare accordingly. 

Wet floors on the 18 bus during last week’s rain. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Residents and businesses can call 311 (or 510-981-2489 after hours) to report storm-related issues “such as a clogged drain, culvert, inlet, or creek; a fallen tree or major limb; a malfunctioning traffic signal; or flooding that enters a travel lane.”

In the event of a power outage, PG&E officials recommend customers to prepare flashlights (not candles) and turn off electric appliances to prevent fire hazards when power is restored.

Bay Area is still in ‘severe’ drought

The recent rainstorms in the Bay Area are typical for December, and it’s still too early in the season to make predictions about the end of California’s ongoing drought, which has lasted for three consecutive years.

The East Bay, along with much of the West Coast, is in a state of “severe” drought, the third-highest level tracked by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Around this time in 2021, by contrast, the East Bay was in “extreme drought,” the monitor’s second-highest level, and parts of the South Bay were in “exceptional drought,” the highest level. 

Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

“We’re still early in the season, but so far, the signals are looking good,” Lorber said.

Precipitation data from the Oakland International Airport show that as of Monday the site has collected 3 inches of water during the current water year, which began in October 2022. That constitutes 88% of “normal” rainfall  — the average amount of rain over a 30-year-period.

This week’s storm is expected to bring enough rain to push the Bay Area above 100% of the normal amount, though we shouldn’t go “counting chickens before they hatch,” cautioned Albert Ruhi, a professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management who studies droughts.

In 2021, an excessively wet October led some to optimistically and erroneously predict the drought was ending. An extremely dry January through March 2022 soon undid those initial victories. 

“Most of the state has been under severe or extreme drought, so just one single year above average isn’t going to do it,” Ruhi said. “We need to replenish the reservoirs, which means several wet years in a row, or a very, very wet one.”

Ruhi noted that it’s snow that falls in the mountains, not rain in the Bay Area, that does the most to quench the drought. That’s because more than 70% of the water people use in California starts off as snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas before melting into the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.

Scientists will know by April 2023 if this water year’s snowpack is enough to end the drought. 

A few consecutive wet years may help refill emptied reservoirs and ease the most direct impacts of drought on people, but it won’t reverse the ecological impacts of extended drought, Ruhi said. His lab, which has been studying drought’s impacts in Pinnacles National Park for eight years, has witnessed the sudden disappearance of previously perennial streams, and he said species that go locally extinct can take years to repopulate, Ruhi said. 

This story was updated after publication with additional information.

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Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...