It Finally Rains in Southern California

Never mind the song that goes something like, ” It Never Rains in Southern California” sung by TONY!TONI!TONE! because the rains have been hammering down on us for quite some time. Long enough it seems that they might just have put a dent in the current drought. While many residents of the area are dealing with flooding and other rain-related issues, the National Weather Service states that more rain and snow are likely in the coming days.

How Bad is the Drought?

By the numbers, at this time last year, approximately 95 percent of the state was under severe drought conditions. Today, thanks to the amount of rainfall we have had, this number is down to approximately 51 percent. Currently, 49 percent of California is under moderate drought conditions, with 2 percent still considered to be under extreme drought, all of which is in Southern California. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire state has seen a significant improvement over the last week.

It gets even better when you look at the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In December, this snowpack was 30 percent lower than it should be by the end of the month. Today, it sits at 189 percent above average for this time of year and 107 percent above what it normally is on the 1st of April when it typically reaches its peak.

National Weather Service Meteorologist David Miskus, who is part of the team monitoring the current drought says, “The good news is your snowpack is way above normal, which you guys needed. You’d be at 107 percent of the April 1 average if it stopped snowing right now.” The state has not been considered “drought-free” since October of 2011 and by July of 2013 was considered to be in severe drought.

Drought Status Downgraded at Last

With this current onslaught of rains (and snow in the mountains) the state’s drought condition has been downgraded from “exceptional” which is the highest level of drought. A condition that lingered in the southwestern part of the state, including Los Angeles County, some areas of Kern and Santa Barbara counties, and almost all of Ventura county. These are now the only areas of the state still considered to be in “extreme” drought.

In the past week areas, such as Orange County, parts of Los Angeles County, western San Diego and Riverside counties, and southwestern San Bernardino county are now thought to be in severe drought, down from extreme. The majority of Riverside and San Bernardino counties are now at moderate drought stage.

Rains have been very heavy over the last week with between 8 and 12 inches falling in Sierra Nevada and 4 to 10 inches falling further west and southwest. The rains have been so heavy that they have soaked the ground to a depth of two feet in some areas creating runoff that has, in turn, caused many creeks to flow and raised the level of a number of lakes. Miskus does say that much more rain is needed in order for the water to reach the aquifers where our wells are.

Following a brief respite in the storms, we can expect them to return in the first part of February. This along with spring melts and runoff are expected to replenish drinking water supplies throughout the state.