Eintime Conversion for education and research 04-24-2007 @ 21:09:41
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Los Angeles on pace for driest rain year ever

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With little moisture in usually wet February, meteorologists said Los Angeles is facing its driest year ever with less than 2½ inches of rain so far.

Prolonged dry weather, which extended the wildfire season, comes just two years after the region was awash with a near-record 37 inches of rain. Eleven inches fell that February, usually the region's rainiest month.

But more than eight months into the rain year starting July 1, 2006, and ending June 30, the downtown/University of Southern California rain gauge only measured 2.42 inches — 0.92 inch of it falling in February.

Normal annual rainfall in Los Angeles is 11.43 inches and there's no rain in the forecast for the next 10 days, meteorologist Eric Boldt said from the National Weather Service regional office in Oxnard.

The last time it was this dry was in 1923-1924 season when 2.50 inches of rain was recorded through March 22, 1924.

"We've never had a drier year on record so far," Boldt said Tuesday. "If nothing significant happens in March, then we've pretty much run out of time. March to early April is about the end of our wet season.

"It would take several very intense storms one after the other to get us to normal and that's very unlikely."

The 2005 soaking replenished reservoirs and aquifers, helping the region avoid more severe drought conditions this year. A heavy snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is also helping with water supplies.

Severe winds and a freeze damaged crops last month, and more than a dozen Riverside County wheat farmers who depend on winter rains said their crops have been devastated.

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"It's definitely a trying time. But when you're born and raised in it, you tend to stick with it," said third-generation farmer Dennis Blehm, 56, of Triple B Farms. He estimated a $1 million loss.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's weather models suggest that an emerging La Nina pattern of cold water in the tropical Pacific will keep the area dry.

"We've had more windstorms than rainstorms. This has been a really unusual winter," said Los Angeles County Assistant Fire Chief John Todd, noting Santa Ana winds that normally die out in February have persisted into March.

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