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L.A. rainfall breaking all kinds of records -- except one

December 27, 2010 |  3:33 pm

Rains The last time Los Angeles had a December as wet as 2010’s, a man driving across East Colorado Street in Pasadena lost his ride.

That is, when his team of horses got swept up by a flood.

It was 1889, and 15.8 inches of rain fell in downtown L.A. that December. As of Monday, 9.42 inches of rain had fallen this December. That’s good for second place in the annals of L.A.’s recorded weather history, which dates to 1878.

“There’s more rain coming Wednesday, so we’ll probably be going over 10 inches,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.

“It’s not 15.8, but it’s not chicken liver either.”

This year’s totals for downtown L.A. are based on a rain gauge at USC, which some scientists say records lower amounts of rain than the old station at the Civic Center.

That station, which is still maintained by Daniel Resch, a hydrologist with the L.A. Department of Water and Power, has documented 10.88 inches of rain in downtown L.A. this month.

The rains may not be done with L.A. this year, but Patzert said that regardless of which weather station is used, the 19th century December rainfall record is probably safe, just as it has been for 121 years. The 1889-90 rain year was one of the wettest in history.

But whether the coming January, February and March will turn out to be rainy affairs remains to be seen, Patzert said.

“The big question is, do we end up like January, February and March of 1890 and get really wet? Or do we go dry?” he said. “Is a wet December a good predictor of a wet winter? The fact is, we don’t know what this says about the coming months.”

-- Hector Becerra

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