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Published: Sat, January 14, 2017
USA | By Yvette Dunn

California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought

California storms could herald the end of punishing historic drought

Recent storms drenching the state with rain and snow could enable at least Northern California to leave the drought in the past.

That marks a major improvement from a year ago, when only 3% of the state was drought-free, according to data from the US Drought Monitor.

Thanks to a decent amount of wet weather last winter, the northern part of California had already started recovering from the drought.

Three months ago, 100 percent of the Golden State was abnormally dry, with 42 percent in an extreme or exceptional drought.

"In southern California, we've had the highest rainfall in at least five years and in northern California it's the highest rainfall in at least 10 years", said Tom Fisher, weather specialist for the National Weather Service.

Lund spoke as he returned from taking students to see the wrenched-open, century-old flood gates in Sacramento, which got its heaviest rain in 20 years this week.

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"It's hard to say we have a drought here right now", said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California at Davis.

At the peak of the drought in 2014 and 2015, urban Californians were under a mandatory 25 percent water conservation order from Brown.

"It's early in the water season and we know from experience that storms can cease", Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the California Natural Resources Agency, told AFP, speaking on behalf of Brown's office. More than 26 million people are in drought-stricken areas. As it rarely rains during California summers, and during the drought farmers couldn't obtain the water they needed from surface reservoirs, they often had to pump water out of the earth to water their crops.

Overall, reservoirs were brimming above average for the first time in six years.

And even if this winter does produce far more rainfall than predicted - remember, the experts called for La Nina, which means cold, dry condition for California - there won't be enough to eliminate drought conditions.

In a state as sprawling and varied as California, "where we are in a drought is complicated", Faunt said.

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