Parts of California now drought-free after back-to-back storms drench state, report shows

Marc Cota-Robles Image
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Back-to-back storms improve California's drought
The latest drought reports shows the recent back-to-back storms to drench California have improved drought conditions across the state, eliminating it in some places.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The historic string of storms that drenched the state this year had many wondering whether California's drought could soon be over.

According to a report released Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor says some parts of the state are now drought-free. That includes portions of California's central coast and valley.

Some parts of Southern California remained in the "moderate" category of drought, while other parts of the region are now categorized as "abnormally dry" - one step away from eliminating drought conditions.

The report reflects the rain that was received through Tuesday of this week. That's when areas like Woodland Hills got roughly 10 inches in a 72-hour span.

At the end of last year, the U.S. Drought Monitor included "extreme" drought portions of the state, as seen in red on the map below:

After recent storms, how has the relentless rain impacted California

That level of drought has now been eliminated. In January, about 35% of California fell into that category.

Despite the large reduction in drought intensity, experts caution that parts of the state still remain in the "severe" or "moderate" categories of drought.

Recent storms fill many CA reservoirs, but what does that mean for state's ongoing drought?

The historic string of storms drenching the state have many wondering whether California's drought could soon be over.

The recent storms have actually filled many of the state's reservoirs, which could even overflow once all of the snow melts. Officials say the drought conditions across the state are improving and the water supply is looking much more promising than a month ago.

"This is big," said Paul Pastelok with AccuWeather. "This is big on how much we've gotten hit."

The state's major reservoirs are located in Northern California, which is where most of the rain and snow has fallen.

As of midnight Monday, Shasta Lake is up to 84% of its historical average, compared to 57% at the beginning of January.

Oroville is higher than its historical average at 116%, up from 71%.

In Southern California, Pyramid and Lake Perris are remaining stable. Castaic has increased from 55% of historical averages on Jan. 1 to 71%. Castaic had retrofit work done in 2021 and with the increased rain, it's returning to a more normal level.

"Keep in mind, there is a healthy snowpack sitting just upstream of those reservoirs, and so as we start seeing the warmer temperatures come during the spring time, we're hoping to see a lot of that runoff make it into those reservoirs," said Demetri Polyzos with the Metropolitan Water District.

So what happens next? Well, it all depends on Mother Nature. Once the snowpack starts melting, the reservoirs could overflow.

"We're going to start to see these reservoirs, which nine of them are already filled from the rain water, so then you add on snow melt and we may have some problems with that as far as flooding goes," said Pastelok.

MWD expects some of the reservoirs up north will release water.

It hopes to capture as much of that water as it can.