California’s drought nearly wiped out

Cars barrel their way through a flooded street in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. California residents evacuated neighborhoods below hillsides scarred by wildfires as the third, and largest, in the latest series of storms brought powerful rain Sunday and warnings about flash flooding and mudslides. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

(KRON) California’s drought is nearly over.

Storms in January and February have filled the state’s creeks, streams, rivers and reservoirs to the breaking point.

On Thursday the National Weather Service released its latest statewide drought map. The difference from March 2016 to March 2017 is remarkable.

In addition, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is close to setting records notched more than three decades ago — a welcome sight after five years of punishing drought in California, surveyors said Wednesday.

A series of storms that doused the state in the first two months of the year brought the water content of the snowpack up to a “pretty phenomenal” 185 percent of normal, well above the 84 percent of normal a year ago, said Frank Gehrke, the state’s chief snow surveyor.

Winter snowfall on the 400-mile mountain range provides roughly one-third of the water used in the nation’s most populous state as the snow melts over the spring and summer and fills reservoirs supplying farmers and city dwellers.

Gehrke said the snowpack is nearing levels last seen in 1983. He noted that levels reached by April 1 are a key marker because that’s the typical end to the wet season.

“We’ve busted through April 1 values pretty much at all snow courses throughout the state,” Gehrke said.

KRON4’S ONLINE WEATHER CENTER

Gehrke took a manual measurement under clear blue skies Wednesday in a meadow at Phillips Station near Lake Tahoe. He found 10 feet of snow at a spot that had been bare of snow at the height of the drought.

Nearby road signs stood half-covered in snow, and roof peaks of homes sat nestled in deep snow with tunnels dug out for access to front doors.

At the southern end of the Sierra Nevada — with the highest mountain peaks — more than double the normal amount of snow has piled up.

The deluge follows five years of drought, including two of the driest in the state’s recorded history.

In April 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown attended the monthly snowpack survey near Lake Tahoe, standing in a field that was barren of any measureable snow.

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