Plenty of rain early in season

Heavy rains

If it feels like storm clouds have been haunting Gilroy more
often this winter, suspicions are correct.
Precipitation measurements are noticeably higher from 2010, with
the garlic city’s average rainfall at 16 percent above normal as of
the end of December.
If it feels like storm clouds have been haunting Gilroy more often this winter, suspicions are correct.

Precipitation measurements are noticeably higher from 2010, with the garlic city’s average rainfall at 16 percent above normal as of the end of December.

But unless you’re a displaced earthworm or cattle rancher dealing with flooded fields, experts say wet weather conditions are actually occurring in ideal patterns.

“It is good, it’s been well above normal,” said Bob Benjamin, forecaster for the San Francisco/Monterey Bay Forecast Office on Monday morning. “We haven’t had it all come down at once, and there’s been no major hydrological problems. I would say it’s come in a good form – steady rains with no rivers overflowing – and the grounds are getting well saturated.”

By “well saturated,” he’s referring to the 9.18 inches of rainfall Gilroy has absorbed since Monday. Normally by this time of year, average rainfall in Gilroy is 6.99 inches.

According to Benjamin, that’s almost halfway to Gilroy’s yearly average of 20.60 inches. A number Gilroy could exceed with the three wettest months of January, February and March, according to, still on the horizon.

It also shows a probable spike in downpours to come at this rate – 2.29 inches, to be exact – since the additional amount the city could expect between now and until the end of June would normally be around 13.71 inches, according to data from the forecast office in Monterey.

Benjamin said Santa Clara County is above where it should be, and that everything is on track to be one of the first notable “above-normal” years in a long period of time.

“We’ll be getting a respite here, which will be good,” he said, explaining the area will have a chance to dry out before showers return.

Precipitation in Gilroy let up New Year’s Eve. The following days were slightly damper, with 0.43 inches of rain Saturday and a little more than one inch Sunday, according to

Gilroy ranch owner Kyle Wolfe, also president of advocate group Cattlemen’s Association of Santa Clara County, points out any rain is good, but if ranchers had it their way, rain and sunshine would alternate every other week.

“It needs to be more spread out,” he said, speaking of model weather patterns.

Wolfe and other ranchers could likely get that desired break from mud and cattle-churned sludge, that is, if the local weather forecast holds true.

For today through Jan. 9, the outlook is sunny with a mix of cloud and winds, according to According to the website, clouds will commence Jan. 10 with showers possible on Jan. 11 and 12.

As for long-ranging weather forecasts, the Farmers’ Almanac predicts an average temperature of 53 degrees Fahrenheit, a rotating melange of conditions such as “showers, sunny, and cool” for Jan. 11-19, a stormy outlook for Jan. 20-25, a mix of sun and storms for Jan. 26-29 and two days of rain for Jan. 30 and 31.

February’s weather scene is even more schizophrenic, jumping all over the place from “chilly” to “sunny south” to “showers north” to “rainy periods,” according to the Farmers’ Almanac.

“It’s not a record year of any sort,” said Terri Anderson, senior engineer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. “But it is above average, and that’s also a good thing.”

As of 2:27 p.m. Monday, the Chesbro Reservoir southwest of Morgan Hill was up in capacity by 46.3 percent from Jan. 3, 2010 and Uvas Reservoir south of Morgan Hill hit a 43.1 percent increase.

The 1.2 capacity increase in Anderson Reservoir in the northeast foothills of Morgan Hill is small in comparison to the increases at Uvas and Chesbro, but Anderson explains it can only be filled to 56 percent of its capacity, and county personnel are emptying it out more frequently.

As for reservoir capacity being breached, Anderson said that’s not a concern – but said it will be interesting to see where the levels lie as they’re periodically checked.

“There’s no worries of overflow,” she said. “Just a little more staff time in the monitoring and tracking of things, such as reservoir levels, weather forecast, what kind of rain we’re seeing and what kind of inflow we expect to see in the reservoirs.”

Todd Barreras, operations service supervisor for the street and sewers department with the City of Gilroy, said his maintenance team took a queue from storm warnings and stepped things up a notch.

As far as the normal trouble areas that have flooded in the past, Barreras said nothing got too backed up.

“We did a lot of preventative maintenance, like extra catch basin cleaning,” he said.

There were some tree limb issues, however, and potholes repairs will be addressed starting Tuesday.

David Stubchaer, operations manager for the City of Gilroy, added some staff were sent to a flood control preparation class, and crews made sure to have stacks of sand bags ready – just in case.

“I think the preparation paid off,” he said. “There were no major issues.”

Though the increase in showers creates more work for some, organic farmers such as Peter Van Dyke of Van Dyke Ranch in Gilroy are singing in the rain.

“Since I’m an orchardist, a lot of rain during the dormant season is the best thing that can happen,” he said.

Van Dyke explained most of the orchard growers in Gilroy and surrounding areas have grass-covered crops as opposed to bare, dirt crops, so if there’s heavy runoff, it won’t drag the soil into rivers.

Thriving grass in the orchard means more beneficial insects and symbiosis between plant roots, he explained.

“The biggest problem with rain in agriculture is erosion,” said Van Dyke.

For those with covered crops, he explained, “we don’t worry about erosion.”

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