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Drought recedes from coast, spreads to rest of state

Recent soaking has normalized conditions in Bay Area, at least for now

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Thus far California has had a rainy March, with two significant storms striking the northern part of the state in two weeks. But the U.S. Drought Monitor says that perilous drought conditions still encompass nearly half of the state.

In a drought map issued Thursday, NOAA meteorologist Richard Tinker reports that 47.68 percent of the state is in a condition of at least “moderate drought,” defined as conditions in which “water supplies may be low and damage may occur to crops and pastures.”

That’s down a fraction of a point since late February. And the small coastal sliver of California experiencing no shortage of hydration in the current map now includes San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area again—presumably because of the extra oomph provided by the rain.

The mega-storm at the beginning of March did not resolve the problem of a snow shortage in the Sierras but did bump the snowpack up to 37 percent of the historical average, a poor showing that’s still better than the record lows recorded in February.

Even so, this surge of sort-of-good news isn’t encouraging when you consider that the drought-afflicted areas of the state have more than tripled in size just since the final week of January.

Note that, although it’s based on data, the drought map also represents the judgment of the researcher who compiled it, and other qualified commentators may disagree with its findings.

SF Weekly quotes NWS spokesperson Steve Anderson saying that present rain levels in the Bay Area are “nothing to be alarmed about, it’s not like we’re going into a drought at all” despite the fact that present rainfall is only 57 percent of the historical average.

Although this week’s storm is clearing away, the National Weather Service still predicts a slight chance of rain as late as Sunday. And then next week another storm is likely to blow into the Bay Area and bring rain yet again, possibly as early as Tuesday and continuing through Thursday.

Every drop counts.

US Drought Monitor