Snow, rains bring modest relief to West

4:56 PM, Feb 9, 2014   |    comments
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Sledders in Salem, Ore. on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 (Photo: Timothy J. Gonzalez, AP)

(USA TODAY) -- Rain and snow was sweeping across parts of the thirsty West for a third day Sunday, but experts say it will take much more wet weather for the region to catch up after months of drought.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport recorded 2.9 inches of snow Saturday night, shattering the record for the date set in 1957. The airport averages only 6.8 inches of snow annually, AccuWeather reported. Parts of Washington state have faced mild drought conditions.

Parts of Oregon and California also saw snow and rain. However, AccuWeather long-range forcaster Mark Paquette said the latest storms have hung a little north of the prime drought areas that stretch from San Francisco and northwestern Nevada down to Los Angeles.

"The good news is that the snow in the Sierra Nevadas the last few days has been measured in feet, not inches," Paquette said. "Since Los Angeles gets so much of its water from those mountains, the snow is big news."

In Willits, one of 17 rural communities that California's Department of Public Health recently described as dangerously low on water, City Councilman Bruce Burton said water levels in a local reservoir and his backyard pond are creeping up and small streams are flowing.

The city in the heart of redwood country usually sees about 50 inches of rain a year and was expected to get about 4 inches by Sunday.

"It's guarded optimism. We are a long ways from where we need to be, but we have to start with some sort of a raindrop," Burton said.

The area is trying to recover from one of the worst droughts in memory. Los Angeles, which averages about 20 inches of rain a year, got 3.6 inches of rain in 2013. Very little of the rain in the last few days reached much below San Francisco, Pacquette said. The region will need several storm systems spread out over months to resolve the drought issues, he said.

There are positives. Pacquette said a change in weather pattern is setting up that will improve the chance of rain and snow in the worst drought-stricken areas through February and into early March.

"Los Angeles and San Diego finally should see some rain," he said. "It's good news, for sure."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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