Crippling California drought levels off, latest map shows

After months of worsening drought across California, conditions appear to have leveled off, at least for now.

According to the latest assessment released Thursday, more than 80% of California continues to suffer extreme drought conditions -- a figure that has remained unchanged now for roughly two weeks. Things had been on a steady march toward worse, pushing more than half of California to the most severe level of drought for the first time since the federal government began issuing regular drought reports in the late 1990s.

Despite recent thunderstorms, 58% of California continues to experience “exceptional” drought -- the harshest on a five-level scale. Nearly 82% of the state, meanwhile, is experiencing “extreme” drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map.

“It was seasonably dry along the West Coast, with measurable precipitation limited to parts of the Sierra Nevada and northeastern California,” according to Richard Tinker, who authored the latest map. “To wit, areas of dryness and drought remained unchanged.”


The state’s major reservoirs total 59% of the historical average, but are “still above the 41% of average recorded during the 1976-77 drought.”

Still, Tinker added that some reservoirs in the west-central parts of the state are below 1977 levels.

The report comes after a series of thunderstorms this week pummeled Northern California, where firefighters have been battling numerous wildfires burning in extremely dry terrain.

Thunderstorms brought lightning, which sparked dozens of fires, further stretching already thin fire resources.

Rain and hail fell in some parts of Northern California and eastern San Bernardino County, but forecasters said this week it was not enough to make a dent in the drought.

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