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California tallies snow, rain from weekend storms

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California had vital snow on Sierra Nevada peaks Monday and positive rainfall totals registered for many areas after a stormy autumn weekend up and down the state that hopes to avoid a sixth consecutive year of drought conditions.


In the Sierra, where the annual snowpack functions as a reservoir for much of the state's water supply, storms over Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks dumped 19 inches of snow at Lodgepole and 16 inches at Grant Grove, the National Weather Service said.


Southern California mountains also saw snow accumulations, including 5 inches at Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino range, where two ski areas began limited operations. To the west, Mountain High ski area in the San Gabriel Mountains planned to open Tuesday.


"Not a bad way to end November," the Hanford weather office wrote on its web page.


When the 2016 water year ended on Sept. 30, the state Department of Water Resources characterized it as a "snow drought," with most of California's precipitation falling as rain and not much of it overall.


What snowpack there was melted early in the spring due to record warmth and was substantially absorbed by soil before reaching the state's huge storage reservoirs.


Where it didn't snow over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the storms brought measurable rain almost everywhere, boosting hopes for a turnaround in the state's drought outlook.


San Francisco has now received about 4.5 inches of rain since the start of the new water year on Oct. 1, putting the city about a half-inch above normal to date.


"This is the greatest amount reported for the start of the water year since 2010," the local weather service office said.


In the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, Fresno, Madera and Merced were also at above-normal precipitation levels.


Some points, such as the far northwest coast, are extremely on the positive side. Eureka has received 17.51 inches of rain since Oct. 1, more than 10 inches above normal to date. A year ago the Humboldt Bay city had barely more than 6 inches by this time.


In the south, rainfall amounts so far this water year have also shown improvement.


Downtown Los Angeles has received 1.4 inches of rain, just .17 inch below normal but more than three times the .46 inch that had accumulated a year ago.


After five years of drought, November brought the unfamiliar sight of rain ponchos in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on back-to-back weekends for home football games by the NFL's Rams and the University of Southern California Trojans.


The rains came although forecasters have said the presence of a weak La Nina, the periodic cooling of the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean, is likely to suppress precipitation in Southern California.


As of last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed most of the state still in various stages of drought, although the area with the worst conditions has shrunk and California's northwest corner is no longer in a drought.


Cold and dry weather is in the immediate forecast, with likely widespread overnight freezing in the San Joaquin Valley late this week, the NWS said.


Forecasters noted some possibility Thursday night into Friday for a Mono wind event — northeast winds that blast down the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and into the foothills — as a low-pressure system moves over the Great Basin. The winds are known for toppling trees.