Warm weather ahead for hills

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As 2002 made its way into the history books, so did a series of storms that soaked the foothills and buried the high country in snow in December.

The National Weather Service forecast is for mostly cloudy skies tonight and Friday, a slight chance of rain Saturday, then dry weather Sunday through Wednesday.

As Decembers go, the one that just ended was relatively wet, but no record breaker.

The 9.96 inches that fell in December went down in the record books as the 14th wettest in Sonora since 1897, when weather records started being kept.

The wettest December was in the winter of 1955-56, when 21.69 inches of rain fell.

Sonora has received 16.42 inches of rain this weather year, which began July 1, compared with the average of 11.04 inches of rainfall through December.

Less than an inch of rain needs to fall in January to keep to the average of 17.44 inches by the end of the month.

It is likely to rain a great deal more than that, said Cindy Matthews, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service Sacramento office.

She said January, February and March are usually the wettest months of the year in California.

In addition, she said, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, which specializes in the long-term outlook, gives a 20 percent chance of greater-than-average rainfall in January, February and March.

"I have been with the National Weather Service in Sacramento for 11 years," she said, "and I haven't often seen any prediction as high as 20 percent.

"That means they have really good confidence this will be a wet January, February and March, and we are already ahead of normal. That's a good thing," she said.

The weather can change quickly in the high country during winter months. Drivers should call ahead to check on conditions before traveling to the high country.

The Union Democrat
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