Rainy day on tap for Bay Area

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If records are made to be broken, a rainfall mark in Sonoma County should be eclipsed this weekend.

Santa Rosa is closing in on a seasonal rain total that has stood since the early 80's. 

The city was being pelted with more rain before dawn on Friday, and the latest storm added more than 1.3 inches to what has already been an impressive winter. 

"What a contrast to the drought, isn't it?" remarked Mike Prinz of Santa Rosa, as he browsed for spring blooms at Kings Nursery.

"It definitely feels like a record breaking year, and not just intense storms, but occurring regularly, and hefty."

55.66 inches is the rainfall total for 1982-83, and as of Friday night, Santa Rosa is only about a tenth of an inch below that.

"Oh it is exhilarating," laughed Art Hayssen, who has taught meteorology at Santa Rosa Junior College for decades.

After all his years tracking North Bay weather, Hayssen began wondering in January about records.

"We were getting what we used to call the pineapple express but what we now call the atmospheric river," he observed.

And although this season's rain has been heavy, storms were staggered in such a way t that they avoided the heavy damage of the early eighties.

"It's been fairly well spaced out so we haven't had disastrous floods or major earth erosion," noted Hayssen. 

The rainy season is only halfway finished, so the storm door remains open, but Hayssen cautions, it doesn't predict anything year to year.   

"Looking over one hundred years, you'll see rainfall much drier than normal, then it will shoot up, much higher, then lower, higher, up and down," he declared.

For shoppers at the nursery, following the stats and looking forward to some sun, washing away the record feels good.  

 "I'd like to see it doubled," joked Elizabeth Gibbs of Santa Rosa, " because as long as you have to put up with this much rain, why not be special, it's fun!"

Weather data is quirky since methods of record keeping change, recording stations move, and technology advances.

Some might argue that downtown Santa Rosa, where measurements were formerly taken, is much drier than the Sonoma County Airport, where tabulations are made now, so current numbers are inflated.

The wettest year in Santa Rosa, predating the National Weather Service, is believed to be 1889-1890, when 56.06 inches fell from July to June.