Officials: More than 40 percent of California out of drought
SAN FRANCISCO — More than 40 percent of California is out of drought, federal drought-watchers said Thursday at the tail end of powerful storms that sent thousands of people fleeing from flooding rivers in the north, unleashed burbling waterfalls in south- ern deserts, and doubled the vital snowpack in the Sierra Nevada in little more than a week.
Declaring California as a whole to be past its official three-year drought emergency will be up to Gov. Jerry Brown, who will probably wait until the end of the win- ter rain and snow season to make that decision.
But for people in northern cities such as Sacramento, where state workers opened flood gates to ease pressure on levees for the first time in a dozen years, releasing a two-mile-wide torrent of excess water from the surg- ing Sacramento River, the call on declaring the dry spell over in Northern California looked much clearer.
“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.
Lund spoke as he returned from taking students to see the wrenched-open, centuryold flood gates in Sacramento, which got its heaviest rain in 20 years this week.
The weekly drought report by federal and academic water experts showed 42 percent of the state had emerged from drought. This time last year, only 3 percent of California was out of drought.
Southern California, which is also receiving welcome rain from the storms, remains in drought but experienced a dramatic reduction in severity.