Another atmospheric river is expected to arrive in Berkeley and the Bay Area Thursday morning, bringing 1.5 to 2 inches of rain by the weekend and the possibility for more disruptive flooding.
A second storm is forecast to hit Monday or Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service, which predicts the wet pattern will continue through the end of next week.
While not anticipated to be “catastrophic” in nature, the coming storms could be comparable to the parade of storms that Berkeley saw in January, said NWS meteorologist Dalton Behringer.
“Of course, in January, it was kind of back to back to back, so the impacts may be different this time, but soils are saturated, so we’re expecting a decent amount of runoff,” he said.
The city’s most flood-prone areas are in the flats, especially West Berkeley. In the hills, landslides can be triggered by long periods of seasonal rainfall, with slides sometimes not starting until well after rain has stopped.
Expect steady, moderate rain starting Thursday morning. Most of the weekend’s rain is expected to fall on Thursday and Friday, but it’s a good idea to keep an umbrella on hand even if skies look blue, as there may be lingering showers Saturday and Sunday. It’ll be windy on Thursday, the NWS says, with gusts of up to 35-40 mph.
Temperatures will be in the mid to upper 50s — relatively warm when compared with the late February storms from Canada that brought snow to the Berkeley Hills. That’s because this atmospheric river is what’s known as a Pineapple Express: a “long plume of moisture” extending from the tropical regions near Hawaii delivering continuous rainfall, said Behringer.
The NWS doesn’t have an official observation site in Berkeley, but since the start of the current water year, which runs from October through September, its gauge at the Oakland Museum of California has measured 27.5 inches, or 155% of the normal precipitation rate expected for this time of the year.
So far this water year, the season is the fifth wettest on record, Behringer said. Still, it’s nowhere close to topping what happened in 1997-98. That year, 39.39 inches of rain had been measured as of March 7 in Oakland.
A rain gauge in West Berkeley has measured 29.59 inches of rain since the start of the current water year, most of which fell in December and January.
All this rain has helped immensely with replenishing the East Bay’s drinking water. The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s reservoirs have collected enough water and snow for the region to no longer need to purchase supplemental water supplies from the Sacramento River through the end of 2023. Last week, EBMUD ended its drought surcharge.
The U.S. drought monitor shows that the Bay Area, while still “abnormally dry,” is no longer in a severe drought.
Berkeley recommends residents protect their homes and businesses from flooding by clearing storm drains, cleaning gutters and downspouts.
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.” If there’s a public works emergency, such as a toxic spill or sewer overflow, you can call 510-981-6620.
If you encounter a flooded road while driving, the city wants you to “turn around, don’t drown.”
The city operates an emergency shelter at the North Berkeley Senior Center (1901 Hearst Ave.), open when temperatures drop below 45 degrees or when there is a more than 50% chance of precipitation.
The city determines whether warming shelters are open on a daily basis. This story will be updated with emergency shelter opening hours once that information is available.
This story was updated after publication.