The rains finally came, quick but irate.
After a parched three months, the first storm of the rainy season tore through Southern California this week, flooding streets, causing deadly mudslides in fire-charred areas and slickening roadways.
But, forecasters say, it probably wasn’t a harbinger of things to come. More likely, it was a brief tempest in the land of perpetual summer.
The next week and a half, which forecasters can predict with relative certainty, should be dry, sunny and warm.
Beyond that, the environmental arithmetic remains the same: Overgrown wilderness areas are still prone to out-of-control blazes, there’s no pressing concern of slipping back into drought, and those in recently fire-devastated areas face the specter of floods and mudslides anytime it rains – potentially for years to come.
“This storm does not portend anything that might happen in the future,” said Matt Moede, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
Southern California will have a strangely uniform weather pattern through the weekend: Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties will each see midweek temperatures in the mid-70s that will gradually rise until hitting the 80s on Saturday, Moede said.
The reason, he added, is that the marine layer – which normally keeps the coasts cooler than inland areas – will be minimal.
Rain could return to the Southland at the end of January, Moede said. Maybe.
Long-term weather predictions are notoriously a crapshoot. Two years ago, the strongest El Nino recorded was supposed to pummel Southern California. Instead, nearly nothing. Last year, during a traditionally dry La Nina period, the state was drenched. Forecasters predicted rain several times this season, with nothing to show for it.
“We are still predicting below-average precipitation for the winter,” Moede said. “But long-term forecasts are extremely hard. It’s such a new science.”
But even if Southern California, or the entire state, doesn’t get another drop of water, it doesn’t mean another drought is on its way.
Thanks to last year’s record rainfall, particularly in the north, every major reservoir in the state has above-average levels of water, said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the California Water Resources Board.
Shasta is at 112 percent of average levels. Folsom, 116 percent. Castaic, in Los Angeles County, is nearly there – at 98 percent.
The snowpack, Carlson said, is also doing…