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Rain only slightly improves drought conditions

Recent rain throughout California made only a slight dent on a drought that has chugged along relentlessly for more than three years, according to federal scientists.

And dry conditions are expected to return for the next two weeks.

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Rainfall drenched large portions of Northern California, improving stream flows, raising some river levels and spurring the growth of small plants and grasses, according to Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

The drought eased across the board throughout California, but it was not a dramatic change, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor map.

The map shows the percentage of the state in a severe drought -- the third harshest on a five-level scale -- improved from 95.04% to 94.42 percent.

The percentage of California under exceptional drought conditions -- considered the most extreme --improved from 58.41% to 55.08%.

Although the rainstorms may have brought a sense of relief from the drought, the respite will be brief.

"It's looking bad for the next two weeks," said David Miskus, NOAA's senior meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center.

The next two weeks will be warm and dry, and rain for the next three months is uncertain. El Ñino conditions, which sometimes bring above normal rains, could form in the Pacific, but the phenomenon would almost certainly be weak if it did.

And it would take a record wet year, or several years of above normal rainfall to restore the state's critically low reservoir levels, Miskus said.

The recent storm, he said, didn't improve snowpack levels in the Sierras.

But at this point, Miskus said Californians will welcome any amount of rain.

"It's got to rain sometime," he said.

For breaking news throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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