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Can El Niño save drought-battered California? Here’s why it’s not that simple

After a string of dry winters, Northern California is experiencing a very wet one, and that might help ease the drought.

As of Wednesday, the northern Sierra Nevada had received 114% of the average rainfall typical during strong El Niño years, while the central Sierra Nevada in the San Joaquin Basin was doing even better, having received 122% of average rainfall typical during big El Niño years.

Many of the state’s major reservoirs are below historical averages -- Lake Shasta is at 40% when the average is 60%, while Lake Oroville is at 34% when the average is 54%.

But don’t start replanting your front lawn just yet. “We have such a huge deficit, it’s a very large number we have to recoup,” said Craig Shoemaker, a meteorologist in Sacramento. Here are some maps, charts and images that help show where California is headed with the rains and where it still needs to go.

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FULL COVERAGE: El Niño in California

More rain and snow coming

Expected rain and snow totals for late tonight through Saturday afternoon. Gusty winds at times too! #cawx pic.twitter.com/ibLsmPbROT— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) January 21, 2016

A winter of storms brings significant rain totals

El Niño & southern jet stream bring rain and snow to NorCal. SoCal? Not so much. #ElNiño https://t.co/vuwpttYPC9 pic.twitter.com/PGwIFFPzet— Ed Joyce (@EdJoyce) January 20, 2016

Season to date rainfall. #bayareawx pic.twitter.com/ApzPY75FOW— NWSBayArea (@NWSBayArea) January 21, 2016

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Helping California’s snow pack

Statewide, snowpack is 111% of normal for this date! 1/19/2015 it was at 32%! #WeStillNeedMoreSnow #cadrought pic.twitter.com/s8sUK50Wyg— CA - DWR (@CA_DWR) January 19, 2016

Filling reservoirs hit hard by drought

Pretty amazing: Lake Shasta rising fast due to rain storms pic.twitter.com/6GhGWhoFwr— Shelby Grad (@shelbygrad) January 20, 2016

But they still have a long way to go

Until recently Lake Shasta levels at historic lows. Big water increase but still way below normal pic.twitter.com/YeGz9tTm1x— Shelby Grad (@shelbygrad) January 21, 2016

Godzilla El Niño continues to eat away at the California drought. nom nom nom precip & snowpack now 110% of normal. pic.twitter.com/E67D5mTA4P— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) January 18, 2016

And the drought persists

#CAdrought More snowpack needed to “chip away” at long-term drought in #California https://t.co/slm19C9ugb #cawater pic.twitter.com/ojovAugSec— Ed Joyce (@EdJoyce) January 21, 2016

MORE ON EL NIÑO

California has ‘a shot out of the drought’ if El Niño rain persists

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