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Autumn storms make small dent in California drought

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Fall storms that brought rain and snow to parts of California have made a small but measurable dent in the state's four-year drought, experts said. The storms dumped up to 3.5 inches of snow on the parched Sierra Nevada earli...

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A dry ditch is seen in front of citrus trees on Gless Ranch in Kern County, Calif. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files.

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Fall storms that brought rain and snow to parts of California have made a small but measurable dent in the state's four-year drought, experts said.

The storms dumped up to 3.5 inches of snow on the parched Sierra Nevada earlier this week and led the Mammoth Mountain ski resort to open two lifts at a time when most other ski areas are closed.

The precipitation has put the state ahead of the normal rainfall for the season and nudged a few areas out of the worst drought designation, scientists at the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday.

The weekly report shows that as of Nov. 3, 44.84 percent of the state was experiencing exceptional drought conditions, the worst designation, down from 46 percent last week and 55 percent a year ago at the same time. The portion of California experiencing extreme drought, the next-highest level, was also down slightly from the prior week, at 70.55 percent. That's a slight drop from 71.08 percent last week and 79.69 percent at the same time in 2014.

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Experts caution that the drought is far from over, even though the Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon El Nino is expected to being rain to parts of the state this winter.

To replenish the state's reservoirs and provide enough water for people and wildlife through the hot months next summer, it must get cold enough for snow to continue to fall in the mountains. The snowpack, which last year was at its lowest in 500 years, melts in the spring to provide water during the warmer months.

Last year, the mountain areas did experience some winter precipitation, but the weather was too warm and the snow didn't stick.

"With four consecutive years of drought, this precipitation was just a start to moisten the soils for hopefully more (frozen preferred) precipitation this winter," said David Miskus, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service, one of several public and academic partners monitoring drought in the United States.

A tiny sliver of the state - just over a tenth of one percent - is not experiencing drought or dry conditions, the Drought Monitor report showed, an improvement over this time last year, when 100 percent of the state was abnormally dry.

Related Topics: DROUGHT
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