A year ago, exceptional drought — the most serious kind — covered 40 percent of California. As of Thursday, following weeks of heavy rain storms and massive dumps of mountain snow, exceptional drought has vacated the state.
The intensity and coverage of California’s drought has shrunk dramatically since October when 80 percent of the state was declared a drought area by the U.S. government’s Drought Monitor. Now just about half the state has drought conditions — entirely focused in central and southern California. The Drought Monitor indicated that Northern California was drought-free two weeks ago.
California’s 50 percent drought coverage is as low as it’s been since April 2013.
Over the past week, ” heavy to excessive precipitation pounded areas … through most of California,” the Drought Monitor said.
More rain fell in Los Angeles between Jan. 20 and 22 (4.18 inches) than it did in all of 2013 (3.6 inches). In January alone, L.A. has received more rain (8.38 inches) than it did not only in the entirety of 2013, but also 2012 (8.15 inches) and 2015 (7.66 inches).
January rainfall has been more than 200 percent of normal in San Francisco and other population centers in central California:
In the mountains, snowfall amounts have been incredible.
“Statewide average snowpack (snow water equivalent) is almost twice normal for late January, and somewhat more than twice normal in the southern Sierra Nevada,” the Drought Monitor reported. “Amounts actually exceed those typically recorded April 1.”
A mind-boggling 20 feet of snow, the most on record, has buried Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski area in the Sierra Nevada:
Considerable portions of California have already received at least half of their annual precipitation just one month into the year.
While the drought intensity has lessened in southern and central California and is no longer “exceptional,” the Drought Monitor shows that severe to extreme drought conditions persist over about half this area. In the central foothills on the eastern side of the San Joaquin Valley, “groundwater levels have not responded as one might expect, and remain critically low,” the Drought Monitor said. “Potable water is still being trucked in to serve residents with dry wells in areas.”
Dry weather is forecast in California for the next five or six days before the next wave of storms potentially moves in. The National Weather Service precipitation outlook predicts a high likelihood of above-normal precipitation in six to 10 days, which would further the dent the drought.