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LOVELY SHOWER GIFTS THERE WERE BENEFITS FROM RECENT BIG RAINS.

Byline: Charles F. Bostwick Staff Writer

The latest in a seemingly never-ending string of storms was pushing Los Angeles to its second-rainiest season in 121 years - and creating the lush green hillsides and gardens and spectacular displays of wildflowers.

Downtown rainfall had totaled 34.51 inches as of 5 p.m. Friday, just shy of the 34.84 inches of the current No. 2 year, 1889-90.

No. 1 is less than 4 inches away at 38.18, a record set in 1883-84.

``I think in all likelihood we will probably eclipse the No. 2 season,'' National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet said Friday.

Whether downtown's rainfall before July 1 will top the 38.18 mark is another matter.

``That would be a more sizable task,'' Sweet said.

The repeated heavy storms since October are making Los Angeles look like someplace other than sunny California. Hillsides are emerald green rather than Southern California brown. Garden plants are budding and wildflowers blooming beside freeway shoulders.

``You've got early bud in the trees and plants; they're growing lots of greenery,'' said nurseryman Richard Blaisdell at Sperling Nursery in Calabasas. ``Everything's looking beautiful with an early flowering.''

Even so, there's good news for Southern Californians who are tired of the wet weather.

Just a slight chance of rain was forecast for this morning, although skies today and Sunday should remain partly cloudy. Monday's skies should be mostly sunny.

A high-pressure ridge expected to set up over the West Coast should bring a warming trend next week, National Weather Service forecasters say.

The ridge should send temperatures well above normal, perhaps even into the 80s by Tuesday and Wednesday. Forecasters said the warming pattern should hold through at least Friday.

More rain, though, is still likely before summer arrives. Even if rainfall patterns are no more than average, forecasters say historic records show Los Angeles gets 4.34 inches from March through June.

While the heavy rain brought mudslides, flooded streets and other problems, it is good for backyard gardens.

``It helps trees by washing the salt accumulation from past years of our alkaline water,'' said Blaisdell, a nurseryman for some 10 years at Sperling.

The only downside for gardens, he said, is in poorly drained yards where the rain can create boggy conditions detrimental to bulbs and other nonthirsty plants.

Wildflowers across Southern California mountains and deserts, from the Coachella Valley to the Antelope Valley to Death Valley, appear heading for the kind of show that comes once in 50 years.

``We've had so much rain, and it fell at the right time; it's going to be spectacular out there,'' said Sid Dutcher, an amateur botanist who coordinates wildflower sightings for Sun Valley-based Theodore Payne Foundation's wildflower hotline.

The wildflower show is best right now at lower elevations, like the lower reaches of the Santa Monica Mountains, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County, the Coachella Valley in Riverside County and southern Death Valley, which got record amounts of rain, Dutcher said.

Wildflowers in the Antelope Valley, around Barstow and in other colder, higher spots will improve over coming weeks, he said.

``In about two weeks, it's going to be booming everywhere,'' Dutcher said. ``Pretty much everybody I talk to says, yeah, this is the year.''

HOW TO FIND FLOWERS

Here are locations, phone numbers and Web sites to help locate wildflowers this spring around Southern California:

--The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is located 15 miles west of the Antelope Valley Freeway off Avenue I. Its visitor center will open today. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Admission is $5 per vehicle. Recorded information is available at (661) 724-1180.

--The Theodore Payne Foundation has a wildflower-report hotline for all of Southern California at (818) 768-3533. An online wildflower report is expected to be posted beginning next week at www.theodorepayne.org.

--Kern County's wildflower hotline, sponsored by the Kern County Board of Trade, is at (800) 500-5376 (KERN).

CAPTION(S):

4 photos, 2 boxes

Photo:

(1 -- color) A solitary wildflower rises from the more-than-adequately watered ground along Balboa and Foothill boulevards on Friday.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer

(2 -- color) Haley Ho, 2, fumbles to hold onto her umbrella in a light rain in Palo Alto on Friday.

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

(3 -- color) A poppy in Leona Valley gets a drink of rainwater, just in time for the opening of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer

(4 -- color) Dodgers fans Erick De Los Santos and Yvette Lopez, both of Los Angeles, share an umbrella as they wait to purchase season tickets at Dodger Stadium on Friday.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer

Box:

(1) STORM ROUNDUP

(2) HOW TO FIND FLOWERS (see text)
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Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Mar 5, 2005
Words:795
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