January has brought drenching rains to a majority of California. Some areas have seen four times the historical precipitation average. The recent storms are putting a dent in the state’s prolonged drought, but experts say more rain is probably needed.
The amount of precipitation California has seen this month so far is definitely a sight for sore eyes. “As far as Fresno goes, we are now at 3.86 inches of precipitation,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Brian Ochs said from his office in Hanford. “The historical average from January 1 to January 12 is .87 inches, and we are now 3 inches past that.”
Reports show a significant change in the state’s main reservoir levels. California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is reporting Lake Shasta, Lake Oroville and Don Pedro Reservoir are all above 125 percent of their historical averages. Snowpack has also increased significantly. “As far as the southern part of the Sierras, their average came in above average at 167 percent of normal,” Ochs said. DWR reports the current snow water equivalent is 163 percent above normal statewide.
Federal drought-watchers recently claimed that 42 percent of California is now out of drought conditions. Ochs said the wet weather is coming during very mild La Niña conditions that will weaken as the season goes on and will likely end up as neutral. Although these rains are a welcomed sight and are making a difference, the wet weather probably needs to continue for a while.
Drought conditions have plagued California for over five years, and the state’s water system isn’t able to handle the amount of water these storms have brought all at once. “It would be helpful if we continue this trend for at least through the end of this year, and maybe a couple to four more years even — just because of the period of the drought which has basically been going on for five to six years,” Ochs said.