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Lake Berryessa "Glory hole"

Lake Berryessa is close to spilling into its glory hole spillway, and storms forecast by the National Weather Service for coming days might make the difference.

For the first time in 11 years, water splashed down the funnel drain at Lake Berryessa last weekend, as people watched from Monticello Dam and a drone flew overhead to capture this historic moment.

But was the spill legitimate? Was the federal reservoir fully at capacity after years of drought?

As it turned out, the spillage had speed boat assistance. Water craft created waves pushing water the final few inches over the top of the giant, 72 feet in diameter concrete funnel nicknamed the “glory hole.”

Peter Kilkus, who puts out the Lake Berryessa News and arranged for the drone flight, defended this boat-assisted spillage.

“Yes, it counts, in its own way,” Kilkus said on Tuesday. “We created history by doing it. And it was real. It’s Lake Berryessa water and you can see it on the video going into the glory hole. It’s kind of cool to do it that way.”

There are naysayers. Kilkus said one person suggested the move had all the legitimacy of getting the glory hole wet by tossing water balloons into it.

Kilkus’ joking reply: Just make sure the balloons contain Lake Berryessa water.

More storms could hit the area beginning late Wednesday. They just might send the glory hole spilling at the eastern Napa County reservoir without human help, creating what has traditionally proven to be a temporary tourist attraction.

“I’m pretty sure it will go over,” Kilkus said. “It shouldn’t take too much more.”

The glory hole spillway keeps nearby water from topping 300-foot-high, concrete Monticello Dam. It takes water for a plunge roughly equivalent to a 25-floor building and empties it into Putah Creek downstream from the base of dam.

While people can’t watch the plunge, which is out of view, they can watch the top of the Glory Hole as it creates a circle of sinking water. It’s a sight that could soon be seen again.

The National Weather Service predicted Tuesday that a stormy streak should extend into Wednesday of next week. There should be breaks at times.

Mike Pechner of Fairfield-based Golden West Meteorology doesn’t expect these Gulf of Alaska storms to be the monsters that pummeled the area in recent months. Still, by Wednesday of next week, the Napa Valley floor could see two to three inches of rain and the hills four to six inches.

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“In any normal winter, that’s pretty good rainfall for four or five days,” Pechner said.

Rock slides and mud slides could continue in the most vulnerable places because the ground is saturated, Pechner said.

“We need to continue to be vigilant and be prepared,” Pechner said.

Napa State Hospital has received 7.29 inches of rain in February. It has received 32.20 inches for the rain year that began Oct. 1, which is already more than the 27.71-inch average for an entire rain season, according to the National Weather Service.

If the spring is wet, the totals by the time the rain season ends could rank among the highest in recent memory. Napa State Hospital for 1997-98 received 42.17 inches and for 1994-95 received 42.75 inches, according to data kept by Weather Warehouse.

But a lot more rain is needed if Napa State Hospital is to top the 50.24-inch total from 1982-83. The state Department of Water Resources rates that rainy season as the wettest statewide of the 20th century and the 21st century hasn’t had any as wet.

Everything depends on the next few weeks. Pechner predicts a spell of dry weather after the upcoming run of storms ends, but doesn’t think the rains are at an end for the rainy season.

“All indications are this pattern, while it will be less wet, will continue into March,” Pechner said. “I think March will also be above-normal rainfall.”

For now, though, Lake Berryessa remains a few frustrating inches short of filling for the first time since early 2006. Back then, George W. Bush was president and Napans still had fresh in their minds a New Year’s Eve flood that left parts of the city underwater.

Water from Lake Berryessa goes almost exclusively to Solano County cities and farms, even though the federal reservoir is in Napa County. But the lake is a Napa County recreation attraction and Kilkus said having it full will draw more visitors.

“There’s this thing building,” Kilkus said. “People for years haven’t seen it. There are so many people who haven’t seen a full lake. It’s been 10 years.”

Go to http://lakeberryessanews.com to see the drone video taken by Evan Kilkus of boat-created waves splashing into the glory hole.

This story has been modified since first posting to give the correct diameter of the "glory hole."

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.