FRESNO COUNTY (KFSN) -- What looks like a wet and snowy start to the new year is welcome news to the Valley's agricultural industry.
With rain and snow levels coming in above normal, it's a hopeful sign the drought, gripping the state for five years, is at last easing.
The rain has helped lawns and gardens rebound and farm trees and vines are also getting a boost. Statewide reservoirs are full, snow is in the mountains, and it could mean a much better year ahead for the Valley's biggest industry.
Growers have had to live with limited irrigation water supplies and pumping to keep crops going during the past five years of drought. Fresno County Farm Bureau Executive Director Ryan Jacobsen says all the rain and snow are a real boost.
"We've had a great start this year," he said. "Obviously, we are only about a third of the way through the precipitation season so we've got a lot to go, but so far, so good things look pretty bright."
Action News meteorologist Alena Lee says the statistics confirm there's reason to be optimistic.
"For the yearly average, we are a couple of inches above our normal for this time of year as far as precipitation is concerned, which is a good thing," she said.
About 14 inches of rain fell on Fresno this year, with much of the boost coming at the end of the year. Doug Carlson of the California Department of Water resources says the precipitation numbers are up throughout the Valley and the mountains.
"In the southern Central Valley, you are about 54 percent more than normal precipitation in the month of December," he said. "And the snow pack is about 83 percent above normal for this date."
Snowpack totals in the southern Sierra are higher than the state total of about 67 percent, and Carlson says the big reservoirs are filling up.
"The reservoirs are doing much better than they have in recent years," he said. "Lake Shasta for example, the largest in the state, it's at about 119 percent of its normal to this date."
More snow appears on the way, and it looks like it will stick.
"Even though we have been a little bit warm, above average for this time of year I think we are going to get really cold in the beginning of January," Lee said. "And that is going to help keep the snow on the ground."
While there are signs pointing to a major easing of drought conditions, it's too soon to say the drought is over.
The state is still delivering water in Tulare County and drought impacts are still visible in parts of the state and that's why we are very reluctant and won't even go there to predict any end of the drought despite the considerable rainfall we've had in the north.
2016 ends with above average rainfall totals across Central Valley
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