Drought Update

February 16, 2009 5:20:47 PM PST
Newly released statewide data indicates the rainfall is increasing the snow pack. We only have 43 more days until the runoff season begins. Between now and then, a series of strong storms need to hit our area to make up for several dry months. Justin Roland is doing something with his son most wouldn't do on the banks of a cold, rainy lake. Justin said, "Fishing, probably not the best idea but we're having fun." His son Zachary said, "I would say it is cold, probably won't catch anything."

Farmers and water experts aren't rushing to celebrate the rainfall. Automated snow surveys indicate the snowpack is slowly increasing. Randy McFarland with Kings River Conservation said California is playing catch up. McFarland said, "We have to remember this series of storms started fairly late in the season. We had too many weeks of warm, dry weather along the way."

Millerton Lake is one visual indicator of the valley's water crisis. When water levels are low here, it is usually a bad year. Right now, the lake is listed at 44-percent capacity which is about normal. McFarland believes if these rains continue then the lake eventually could hit 100-percent capacity.

California's Department of Water resources reports statewide precipitation and reservoir storage are way low at 65-percent of the average amount. The snowpack water content is even lower at 58-percent.

Meteorologist Jim Dudley at the National Weather Service predicts more storms, but the type of rainfall can make a big difference. Dudley said, "Is it going to be cold enough to put the snow down where it normally falls or is it going to be warm enough to put the snow in the high elevations and have it rain on the snow that has fallen." Dudley said the valley will benefit the most if the next rains are from a cold storm producing snow at lower elevations.

February is looking like a wet month. But the state reports last month January 2009, we experienced the eight driest January on record. We only accumulated 30 percent of the normal precipitation.

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