All This Rain Has Made a Big Dent in the Drought

Drought conditions have retreated to the extreme northern edge of the state, while the Sierra snowpack is at 100 percent, too.

(United States Drought Monitor)

How stormy has California been? Stormy enough that parts of Orange County got two inches of rain, enough to force Disneyland to close early, something the park hardly ever does. (This was unrelated to the guy jumping off Space Mountain last Thursday, temporarily shutting down that ride.)

Here in San Francisco, we got 1.13 inches between Saturday and Sunday, with more this morning. If you were even slightly late to work today, your cuffs probably got soaked, since it was pouring hard downtown right around 9 a.m. But all this rain has led to another positive consequence for our abnormally-dry-is-the-new-normal state: The low-level drought has abated significantly.

As of last Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Bay Area, Sacramento, and most of the Central Sierra were entirely drought-free. Even sections of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, which had been the locus of incipient drought conditions, were only in the “moderate drought” category. Statewide, 76 percent of California was “abnormally dry” or worse, down from 92 percent the week before. But the moderate drought category plunged from 72 percent of the state on Jan. 22 to only 24 percent last week. As this data reflects conditions from almost a week ago, it’s likely that the most recent rainstorms will only improve the situation.

A mere 3 percent of the state is in the “severe drought” category — a sharp drop from the 23-percent figure at the beginning of the water year in late September. Nearly all of that area is localized within Siskiyou County on the Oregon border, meaning that California’s northwest corner, usually among the rainiest places in the state, is now the site of the worst drought conditions. And that, too, might not last long: The Siskiyou County town of Weed, Calif., is expected to get snow showers almost every day for the next week.

Overall, the Sierra snowpack is now exactly where it needs to be. Barring an abrupt dry spell beginning in the middle of February, it looks as though the 2018-19 water year will replenish the state’s coffers.

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