It’s still likely to be a wet week for Santa Cruz County, but the rain will come a little bit later than expected and will stop short of an atmospheric river.

Last week, a low-pressure system hovering off the coast looked like it could merge with additional moisture in the subtropics closer to Hawaii, creating conditions consistent with those of atmospheric rivers. On Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorologist Sean Miller said the system did not have enough energy to move into that tropical moisture.

Now, Miller expects rain to begin Wednesday, dropping only about a half an inch on Santa Cruz County before a Thursday respite. Friday and Saturday will likely bring moderate to occasionally heavy rainfall. “That looks like when that system that’s been sitting out there for so long should finally start to push a little closer to the coast,” said Miller.

Rainfall could reach up to 2 inches across the low-elevation parts of the county, and up to 4 inches in the mountains.

As it currently stands, the weather pattern sitting offshore is a more traditional large-scale storm, and milder than any of the intense atmospheric rivers the county experienced last winter, which bring a massive amount of water, and are characterized by a strong jet stream that flows into the coastline and mountains, bringing continuous rain that quickly inundates the region.

That said, the system on its way to the county still holds plenty of moisture, but it originates from the Gulf of Alaska, and never quite merged with the hallmark tropical moisture seen in atmospheric rivers.

“If it had kept moving along, it’s possible that it could have drawn more of that region’s moisture along with it, but it didn’t really do that,” Miller said. “It takes something else in the atmosphere strong enough to come along to get it moving.”

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Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...