A dry spell is expected to stick around the Central Valley.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, a famous groundhog in Punxsutawney, Penn., predicted an early spring. But Tracy residents haven’t needed a rodent to tell them winter seems to have loosened its grip.
Several December and early January storms drenched the city with 6.98 inches of rain, according to the Tracy Press rain gauge at 145 W. 10th St.
But since then, the city has endured a dry spell, receiving only 0.16 inches of precipitation since Jan. 7, bringing Tracy’s seasonal total to 7.14 inches.
Temperatures have also moderated since a mid-January cold snap that saw nighttime lows plunge below freezing for 13-straight days, according to AccuWeather.
Since Jan. 23, highs have ranged in the high 50s and low 60s, while lows have gotten below 32 degrees only once, on Feb. 1.
AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist Jack Boston said Monday, Feb. 4, that the region is “on the edge of moderate drought conditions.”
“It’s not anything serious yet — there’s definitely more severe drought toward Bakersfield, and to the east of you, too,” he said.
Boston doesn’t see a return to winter storms in Tracy’s immediate future, though morning fog is likely during the next few weeks.
He said a high pressure system that has split the jet stream north over Oregon and the south over Baja California will probably stay in place through the end of February.
“Given the weather pattern that is setting up, if you do get an opportunity (for rain), it’s going to be brief and it’s not going to last,” he said.
It’s a gloomy prediction for Bill Harrison, manager of the Del Puerto Irrigation District, which supplies water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley south of Tracy toward Patterson.
He said some planters — especially almond growers — are already starting to irrigate because of the lack of rain.
“The bloom will happen in a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure there’s enough water for the trees to work with when they wake up.”
Harrison said his district will be “hard pressed” to get 25 percent of its contracted supply of water from the federally managed Delta-Mendota Canal, which takes water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from giant pumps northwest of Tracy.
In a typical year, Harrison said, his district can count on receiving between 45 percent and 55 percent of its contract. He will find out how much to expect in late February, when the federal government releases its water report.
The anticipated drop-off means the Del Puerto district and others will have to scramble for other sources of water, including buying from those with more guaranteed water rights. But as demand rises, Harrison said, the cost of water also spikes, setting up farmers for a potentially difficult year.
“We got off to a good start, and everything just kind of dried up on us,” he said. “We’re kind of behind the eight ball.”
• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.