The good citizens of California are far from happy, faced as they are with a severe drought, blazing wildfires and the looming possibility of unemployment. For those wondering about how bad the drought situation really is, here are a few facts at a glance:
- Folsum Dam is at just 18 percent of its total capacity, which is 42 percent of its average for the time of year.
- On the western side of Fresno County, about 200,000 acres of agricultural land will remain unfarmed.
- The American River last week hit its lowest water level in decades.
- 2013 recorded the least amount of rainfall since 1849 when records were started.
- January and February are normally the wettest months for most of California and so far this year it has not rained a single drop.
- As of today, 62 percent of the State is classified as under “extreme drought,” as opposed to 28 percent two weeks ago.
Near Los Angeles and in Northern California, firefighters are only now getting wildfires under control. California usually has these fires only in the middle of summer and never in winter.
These facts serve to provide a decidedly gloomy prognosis for the Golden State. Louis Moore, a spokesman at the US Dept. of Interior says, “It’s critically dry. Where we are right now is right around even with the driest period in the early 1990s and even back in 1977. We’re conserving water and we’re looking for additional water.”
The unusually dry weather which has wreaked havoc with drought, fires and possibly people’s livelihood is a ridge of high pressure extending from Oregon to New Mexico. This block acts like a big rock in a stream and diverts storms and cold weather into Alaska and Canada, resulting in unusually cold and snowy conditions in parts of the Midwest and Northeastern United States over the past few weeks. Weather experts say that these high pressure zones are quite common in the winter but they usually dissipate rapidly, allowing storms, snow and rain to envelop the region. Unfortunately for Californians, this year the ridge continues to remain firmly in place.
The ongoing conditions have forced Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state-wide drought on Friday and release a statement saying that although they could not make it rain, they could be in a more prepared state for the consequences threatened by the drought. If the situation persists or worsens, the people might find themselves subjected to the rigors and restrictions that were imposed during the earlier periods of crippling drought in 1976 and 1977. Some of these include one-minute showers, not washing cars or watering plants.
Apart from the devastating wildfires, the drought in California is already causing unemployment for agricultural workers. In addition to this, according to a report released by the California Department of Water Resources, the Northern Sierra snowpack is only at 8 percent of what it should be in January. Therefore many ski resorts were also affected as they were unable to open their doors to guests during the peak season of December to January due to low snowfall.
By Grace Stephen