Biggest Storm in Five Years Hits Drought Stricken California

Biggest Storm in Five Years Hits Drought Stricken California

California gets rain at last: Will it be enough to help with drought?

Even as drought-weary Californians are basking in a five-day downpour, they are largely savvy enough to know that this storm – no matter how mighty – is not enough to turn the tide for a region engulfed in a historic three-year dry spell.

Nonetheless, there are a few glimmers that indeed, this drenching is affecting some important water indicators in significant ways. The state water project, which channels water to some 25 million residents statewide and nearly a million acres of farmland, will double its allocation in 2015. Admittedly, that figure was at a 54-year low in 2014: Agencies received 5 percent of the water they requested. But on Monday, officials committed to 10 percent for 2015.

“This rainfall is really welcome and is making a dent in the drought,” says Ted Thomas, information officer for the California Department of Water Resources, even as he adds the necessary caveat that the state will need many more big storms to really turn the drought around.

He also points cautiously to at least one other important indicator – the Sierra snowpack. It stands at 34 percent of normal for this time of year – a level not hit until the end of February this past winter. “This is good for us,” Mr. Thomas says.

At the same time, the storm is ushering in additional problems. Heavy rainfall in the San Francisco Bay Area contributed to a sinkhole opening up Wednesday morning on the Bay Bridge. And residents in southern California towns such as Glendora are contending with mudslides triggered in areas where vegetation was burned off in recent fires.

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Weather Underground reports that for this time of year, California is running a precipitation surplus:

CA Storm 2

Weather Underground says a storm moving up the West Coast of the United States is the wettest to hit the region since 2009.

The good news, writes Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters, is that the region has been hurt by a historic drought:

“Rainfall amounts of 3 – 8 inches are expected over most of Northern California, with snowfall amounts of 1 – 3 feet predicted in the Sierra Mountains.

“As noted by Wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt in his Monday post, California Drought Situation Improves, this week’s storm may be the strongest and wettest storm to hit the region since October 2009, when the last major ‘pineapple express’ soaked the state. California is already benefiting from widespread heavy rains that fell November 29th through December 6th, and most of California is now running a seasonal precipitation surplus—the first time they’ve seen such since December 2012.”

Some of the weather, however, could be dangerous. According to CBS News, the weather service is warning that high winds and heavy rainfall could result in damage. (NPR)

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