Sprinkling of rain over Bay Area may soon become a soaking 

Much-needed rain fell on downtown San Francisco and elsewhere in California on Wednesday at the outset of what the parched state hopes is the start to a one-two punch of stormy weather.

While Wednesday’s storm traveled south down the coast, a potentially stronger system moving in late Thursday could bring thunder and dump from 2 to 6 inches around the Bay Area.

Downtown San Francisco is close to its February average of 3.86 inches of rain to date, but it is 11.62 inches below normal for the rain year that began July 1.

State water officials plan to survey the anemic mountain snowpack Thursday, and will likely find that California’s precipitation is badly lagging what’s needed to quench the region’s thirst.

After 2013 ended as the state’s driest year on record, all that predicted rain and snow should be nothing but good news. But there also was a risky side of the downpours.

If the rainfall rate is intense, it could bring flash flooding, “and our ground is so dry ... that we’ll probably get more runoff than we’re absorbing,” said Bonnie Bartling of the National Weather Service.

A so-called Pineapple Express storm brought rain and snow to California earlier this month, and when it departed, the Sierra Nevada snowpack had grown but was still only 29 percent of normal.

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