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Briefs: Rain Gauge, Guard Changing

shutterstock rainRAIN GAUGE

The San Lorenzo River is flowing, and awnings dripped rainwater onto Pacific Avenue last week. While 55 percent of California is in exceptional drought, last week’s long-overdue showers were a welcome relief. Nearly every portion of the state is in some degree of water deprivation. So, did the recent rains quelch the drought? Not exactly. Experts, both local and statewide, say we still have a way to go before we can declare ourselves free from drought.

“We are getting a lot of water in our watershed,” Santa Cruz Water Department spokesperson Eileen Cross writes via email, “and we still have a very long way to go to be ‘out of drought.’” But it’s a start. The watershed that drains the many waterways of the Santa Cruz Mountains has gained 12 inches from the recent rains. It will need another 4 feet to reach drought-free status.

Experts do predict above-normal precipitation throughout December, according to meteorologist Richard Tinker’s recent post in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Seasonal Drought Outlook. Good news, of course. Still, Tinker warns, “Most areas of extreme-to-exceptional drought likely will still be in the grip of a serious drought as winter ends, despite any improvement.”

El Niño weather conditions could deliver some relief—the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and NOAA announced an El Niño watch in March last spring. Though they’ve observed most of the criteria needed to reach El Niño status, we still need increased rainfall over the central Pacific and weakened winds along the equator to start celebrating a full-blown El Niño.

Also, a new study shows California’s drought might be worst than just about anyone could have imagined. Based on tree-ring data, this might be the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years, according to a Dec. 5 report from the University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Cross remains hopeful, though it is unclear what will happen. “Unfortunately, there’s no crystal ball to tell us what the weather will do in the next few months,” Cross writes. “In 2012, you may remember, it rained most of December, then barely rained again. So at the water department, we’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” BB

GUARD CHANGING

There will be shifts in Watsonville government’s leadership. Carlos Palacios, Watsonville city manager of 18 years, has announced he will take a job as deputy county administrative officer in CAO Susan Mauriello’s office. After a national search, county staff said that Palacios, who has a master’s degree from Princeton University, was the strongest out of 64 applicants. In the South County, the change will prompt a search for Palacios’ replacement.

And now that the final election results are in, it’s official that City Council candidates Jimmy Dutra and Rebecca Garcia have unseated incumbents Eduardo Montesino and Daniel Dodge, respectively. They were sworn in this past week. JP

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