Speed Reads

some good news

Winter storms lift parts of California out of drought conditions

So much rain and snow have fallen in California over the last two months that several parts of the state are no longer considered to be in drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday.

Just as California was going through its driest three years ever recorded, the state was hit by nine atmospheric river storms in January, and February saw even stronger storms, with snow falling at low elevations and blizzard conditions in Southern California mountains. In its latest estimate, the Drought Monitor said close to 17 percent of California is out of drought conditions, and 34 percent is now just "abnormally dry," just above drought classification. One-quarter of the state remains in "severe drought," including parts of eastern San Bernardino and Inyo Counties.

"It's pretty amazing, the changes, not only over the past week but going back to December of 2022," Drought Monitor author Brad Pugh told the Los Angeles Times. At that time, all of the state was experiencing drought conditions, with the exception of less than 1 percent that was considered abnormally dry.

Mountain snow provides about one-third of California's water supply, and as of Thursday, the statewide snowpack level is 192 percent of normal and the Southern Sierra is at 232 percent of normal. Looking at reservoirs, Lake Shasta rose from 34 percent to 60 percent of capacity, while Lake Oroville increased from 37 percent to 73 percent. More rain is in the forecast for next week, and meteorologists say the wet weather could continue through March.

"The pattern through the next two to three weeks appears colder than normal, so we should be able to maintain the snowpack, and signs are good for even enhancing the snowpack over the next couple of weeks," Pugh told the Times.