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Bay Area remains dry while winter visits nation

The late stand-up comic George Carlin would’ve had fun comparing Bay Area weather forecasts to the rest of the nation.

Imagine him gripping his microphone, roaming across the stage and in an exaggerated, deep and authoritative voice announcing:

“Wintry weather expected for the Rockies and Cascades. Severe weather possible on Sunday ahead of a cold front.”

Now, softening his voice and slumping his shoulders, he converts to his famed “hippy-dippy weatherman” and meekly offers his Bay Area forecast:

“Afternoon temperatures are trending a few degrees cooler than yesterday at this time, with afternoon readings ranging from the upper 50s to the upper 60s. Visible satellite imagery shows some coastal clouds over the Monterey Peninsula, as well as along the San Mateo County coast.”

Well it’s no joke — those are statements from the National Weather Service in their separate weekend forecasts for parts of the nation and the Bay Area.

In fact, the weather has been so mellow for most of the year that the National Weather Service reports the last time any substantial rain fell on San Francisco was April 4.

To jog your memory, that day President Barack Obama was in the Bay Area as part of a fundraising trip. The San Francisco Giants, after taking two out of three against their arch rival Los Angeles’ Dodgers, had the day off and were getting ready for their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Popular film critic Roger Ebert also passed in Chicago that day.

According to the weather service, that spring day was the last time the city received more than .25 inches of rain in a day — one of the longest stretches in recorded history San Francisco has gone without at least a quarter of an inch of precipitation in a 24-hour period.

And since July 1, the start of the “rain-year,” a period of time meteorologists use to track rainfall amounts, the National Weather forecaster Diana Henderson told SFBay only a total of .43 inches of rain has fallen on San Francisco.

That’s about two percent of the rain San Francisco would normally get from July 1 through the middle of November, and puts The City on pace to fall well below the 22 inches or so f rain it averages from July of June.

Still, Henderson told SFBay the dry summer and fall is not necessarily an indication how much rain might fall this winter and spring:

“It’s really hard to predict an entire year.  It’s kind of like predicting the stock market.”

Indeed, last December was an especially wet month, with a series of powerful storms drenching the Bay Area. But nature’s spigot turned off fast.

The year has continued to be so dry that fire officials remain concerned that wildfires could still break out in rural parts of the Bay Area.  The concerns are so real that the Cal Fire unit that battles fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties is keeping extra staff on duty and equipment ready much later in the year than it usually does.

Unit Chief Scott Jalbert said:

“The 2013 fire season started earlier than normal and is continuing much later than normal, making for one of the longest fire seasons we’ve experienced in the San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit in decades. We have also seen fires burning in areas where we have rarely seen wildfires in the past.”

The extended dry weather is having an impact on farmers and ranchers across the state and the region.

In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared the entire state a drought disaster area.  The declaration made early all farmers and ranchers in California eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans.

Val Dolcini, Farm Service Agency state executive director said in announcing the loans:

“Just about everyone in California agriculture has been negatively affected by drought this year. California’s diverse farmers and ranchers of all sizes and backgrounds have experienced drought conditions and water shortages and may find help at FSA offices.”

There is an outside chance Mother Nature may soon bring an end to this ongoing stretch without any significant rain. Forecasters say there is a possibility of showers in the San Francisco by early Tuesday.

Still, if some rain does finally fall, forecasters say it might not be more than one-tenth of an inch in some areas.

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