The recent onslaught of rain and snow finally brought much-needed relief to northern California, ending a punishing five-year drought, federal officials said Thursday.
“Bye bye drought … Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” tweeted the National Weather Service’s office in Reno, Nev., which monitors parts of the region.
Overall, less than 60% of California remains in drought for the first time since early 2013, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. A year ago, drought covered 97% of the state.
Stations up and down the Sierra mountain chain reported twice the amount of normal rain and snow for this time of year after snowstorms doubled the vital snowpack there that provides the state with much of its year-round water supply.
“It’s been a nice little miracle month after five bad years,” said meteorologist David Miskus of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who wrote this week’s drought report.
More than a foot of precipitation fell in the Sierra in the past week alone, leaving most major reservoirs at or above average levels, Miskus said.
Too much snow closes ski resorts in California, Nevada
Strawberry Valley, Calif., received 20.7 inches of precipitation, and the Heavenly Ski Area near Lake Tahoe picked up a whopping 12 feet of snow. The excessive snowfall even led to closures of some ski resorts because of blizzard conditions and road closures.
However, much of southern California remains dry, though most not at the most severe level of drought. Only 2% of the state is in that category of “exceptional” drought: an area that stretches from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. Across southern California, reservoirs and underground water supplies remain below normal, the Drought Monitor said.
It will take additional rain and snow this winter, plus another wet winter next year, to pull southern California out of drought, Miskus said.