Oakland reaches 78 degrees in February: Experts worry about fire danger, water supply

Record high temperatures in parts of the Bay Area made mid-February feel like mid-summer, as people sported short sleeves and shorts instead of raincoats and boots.

Oakland hit a record high of 78-degrees, beating the previous record of 74 degrees in 2006. In Salinas, it was 83 degrees surpassing the previous record of 81 degrees in 2018. Richmond matched its 75-degree record set in 1988.

"Very concerning, just given there's not going to be strong snow pack buildup. Year-round water supply. And then the trees need it too," said Andrew Hess, an Oakland resident who says he's been doing more bicycling than skiing this winter.

Andrew Schwartz, Lead Scientist at UC Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Lab near Donner Pass, says the snow pack is already melting early.

"Our temperatures today and over the last couple days have been about 10-15 degrees above average for this time of year," said Schwartz, "In the last 48 hours because of the warm temperatures, we've lost about 3 inches of our snow pack depth and about 1 inch of our snow-water equivalent. And Snow water equivalent is how much water our snow contains," said Schwartz.

Schwartz says early snow melt could have a negative impact on reservoir supplies.

"What concerns us about when we start to get melt or evaporation about this time of winter is that particularly with high temperatures of evaporation, that's water that isn't going to make it into our reservoirs," said Schwartz.

Bay Area water districts are voicing concern.

"With our reservoirs down, we're pretty concerned about the situation as we go towards the summer," said Gary Kremen, director of the Santa Clara County Water District, "Reservoirs cumulatively are only at 26% of capacity."

Experts say the warm winter could also have a big impact on fire conditions.

"Having that snow pack here as long as possible is really beneficial for our fire conditions, because it kind of helps keep a lid on that and ensure our fire danger isn't quite as high going into the summer," said Schwartz.

A small wildfire broke out on Wednesday in Marin County. A helicopter and fire crews worked to contain the fire that broke out in heavy timber on Shoreline Highway near Stinson Beach. The Canyon Fire burned through two acres by late afternoon.

"We have family that live up in wine country, Sonoma County and just the fire danger that a drought like this can create is really sad. So, I really hope we get some rain," said Alexis Kleeman, an Oakland resident.

Without rain in the forecast, however, water agencies are emphasizing the need for people to continue conserving water through the winter.

East Bay MUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook says, although water use so far this year is down 10% compared to this time last year, EBMUD and other agencies are worried because people's water usage in February has been increasing with the heat.

"One of the big things that I think we should encourage everyone to do is keep a lid on how much water they're using," said Schwartz.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.