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California marks 2013 as historically dry year

The sun shines above Southern California in this undated file photo.

December 31, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Parts of California closed out 2013 as the driest year on record. The record covers dozens of cities, including Los Angeles.

Since this time last year, we've seen just a few inches of rain. Downtown Los Angeles received just 3.6 inches of rain since Jan. 1, the driest calendar year since 1877. Normally, downtown would get about 15 inches of precipitation.

Also, San Francisco recorded just 5.59 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, 18 inches below normal. Sacramento is 14 inches below average after receiving 6.13 inches of rain this year.

The records were not to become official until midnight, but there was not a drop of rain in the forecast for the next several days.

December is typically one of the wettest months, but a persistent dome of high pressure has steered storms away from California for the past month. While the country shivered during Christmas, Californians flocked to the beach and basked in summer-like temperatures.

The lack of rain does not bode well for the winter's first snow survey, due to be released Friday. Real-time readings of the water content in the snowpack - which supplies much of California's water - reveal it's only 20 percent of normal.

Many of the state's major reservoirs are below average for the month. State water managers are also discussing transferring water from places with relative abundance to communities facing critical shortages.

Even before the state was gripped by record dryness, several cities, including Santa Monica and Long Beach in Southern California, have planned to reduce their dependence on imported water in the coming years by maximizing groundwater supplies, harvesting stormwater and increasing recycled water distribution.

Despite an arid year, forecasters said the rainy season is not over yet. In past years, a dry December gave way to storms in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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