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Rain a welcome sight in Sonoma County

On Sunday, as that furry forecaster Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, it finally began to feel like the season normally does in Sonoma County.

A cool, steady rain fell on the region starting around 6 a.m., and by 4 p.m., 0.63 inches had accumulated at the Santa Rosa Airport, according to National Weather Service forecaster Steve Anderson. Snow was reported in the town of Angwin, on Highway 29 in Napa County near Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, and on Highway 175, which was closed for a portion of Sunday morning because of the weather, the CHP said. Some mountainous areas near Guerneville and Cazadero saw as much as an inch of rain, Anderson said.

Sunday's rainfall was not much by normal winter standards, but in the driest weather year on record in the county, many found it cause for excitement -#8212; and a hopeful sign that weather patterns which have long shunted rain farther north might be finally shifting.

A high-pressure system has for months deflected the winter rain that would normally fall on the North Coast and recharge streams, lakes and groundwater. The lack of precipitation has worsened already dry conditions resulting from low rainfall in the previous year. Just one-tenth of an inch fell at the Santa Rosa Airport this January compared with an average January rainfall of 5.93, said Randy Adkins, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.

"That's a whopping 2 percent of normal," he said.

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