California Storms Desperately Needed but Will Not Offset Drought

CaliforniaThe recent deluge of rain this past week might come as a relief to what has been a considerably dry winter; but even as parts of Southern California face extreme weather warnings, this down pour is not enough to offset the state from its recent bout of dry-spells. These storms are perhaps some of the most extreme weather California has seen in years. Throughout parts of L.A. county there were warnings of mudslides, flash floods, massive 12-foot waves, and the possibility of a tornado.

The storms brought exhilarating displays of thunder and lighting, as well as powerful winds, with gusts up to 65 mph in the counties of San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego. Weather like this has certainly brought safety concerns to Californians, while mandatory evacuation orders were issued for over a thousand residents in the Glendora area. Safety concerns aside, the rain is still greatly appreciated as the state faces the most severe drought that they’ve experienced in over 120 years. As the storm continues to play out through the weekend, it has been estimated that they will bring up to three inches of rain in coastal areas and upwards of ten inches in mountain regions. According to meteorologists, however, these number do little to alleviate the harsh effects of California’s longstanding drought. Even for L.A, one of the driest cities in the state, the influx of rain still leaves them seven inches below their 11 inch yearly average.

There is no doubt that California desperately needs the rain, but even with the down pour over the past few days, it will take much more to offset the drought. The rain totals for C.A. in general are still severely disappointing. The U.S. Drought Monitor has reported that any perceived benefits of rain are quickly overcome by the dryness and temperature highs that follow, leading to a rapid expansion of the drought throughout the warmest parts of C.A. like the San Joaquin Valley. Precipitation levels are at 22 percent, which is far below their usual seasonal levels. The years of 2012 and 2013 were some of the hottest years that C.A. has ever seen, making it the worst drought the state has faced since the late 1970’s. This will impact agriculture is many ways, as the Central Valley Project plans to entirely cut off water supplies to many growers in 2014, with even the most senior growers expected to receive only 40 percent of their usual water supply.

In January Governor Jerry Brown issued a State of Emergency, directing state officials to take necessary actions in preparation for upcoming water shortages. Gov. Brown has also asked that Californians voluntarily reduce their water consumption by 20 percent, while new public service announcements circulate that encourage water conservation and techniques of how to do so.

Just last week, on Feb, 19th, NBC reported that there were 17 communities throughout the state that were in danger of running out of drinking water in the coming month. Gov. Brown issued a call to action plan, allocating $687 million to help communities that have been severely affected by the drought and whose drinking water supplies are dangerously low. The plan focusses on water conservation and recycling methods like capturing storm water and recharging groundwater.

As the C.A. government and its citizens take steps to prepare for what may be worsening conditions; and while many, of various faiths and beliefs, pray or meditate for more rain, this week’s rough storm conditions are something to be thankful for indeed. While the drought will not be offset by the storm, it was needed desperately. The storms extreme conditions brings caution, but they also brings comfort, and renewed hopes for nature’s coming remedy to the dryness.

By Natalia Sanchez

US Drought Monitor

Department of Water Resources

NBC News

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