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Drought deepens dramatically in Southern California

By in Press Enterprise on February 1, 2018

By The Associated Press

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER and RICH PEDRONCELLI

PHILLIPS STATION, Calif. — California is rapidly plunging back into drought, with severe conditions now existing in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties — home to one-fourth of the state’s population, a national drought monitor said Thursday.

The weekly report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor, a project of government agencies and other partners, also shows 44 percent of the state is now considered to be in a moderate drought. It’s a dramatic jump from just last week, when the figure was 13 percent.

“It’s not nearly where we’d like to be,” Frank Gehrke, a state official, acknowledged after separately carrying out manual measurements of winter snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which supplies water to millions of Californians in a good, wet year.

Overall, the vital snowpack Thursday stood at less than a third of normal for the date.

California lifted a drought state of emergency less than a year ago, ending cutbacks that at the peak of the drought mandated 25 percent conservation by cities and towns, devastated generations of native salmon and other wildlife, made household wells run dry in the state’s middle, and compelled farmers to dig deep, costly wells.

A rainy winter last year in the state’s north finally snapped the worst of that drought.

The new figures from national drought monitors came amid growing concern among state officials about another dry winter. The dry spell is acute in Southern California. Los Angeles and some surrounding areas have received only one significant storm in nearly a year, and it triggered deadly mudslides. The region is now seeing record-setting heat.

The readings detailed Thursday show the drought has worsened to the severe category in 5 percent of the state. The last time even a small part of the state was rated in severe drought was last […]    

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