The Mega-Drought Is Over But California Faces a New Threat: Floods

The state is now nearly entirely free of dry conditions but the impact of the wild winter weather has not ended quite yet

The violent storms and atmospheric rivers raging across Southern California this winter and early spring have brought an end to a record-breaking drought across much of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which now registers Los Angeles as both free of drought and also almost entirely free of dry conditions.

In October, half of the state had been wrested free from drought, according to the monitoring body. The deluge of precipitation from the vigorous storms California has seen so far in 2023—with nine atmospheric rivers in three weeks helped dampen the landscape and build up the Sierra Nevada snowpack, a representative from the Department of Water Resources said on a Friday briefing.

In December, the Metro Water Department declared a drought emergency for all of Southern California. The department, which supplies water to population centers including L.A. and San Diego, cautioned residents that they would have to cut back on water usage; outdoor watering was limited to one day a week for many, beginning in June 2022.

But they voted to void the restrictions in March after the effects of 12 atmospheric rivers changed the situation. And now, just one little corner of Antelope Valley is listed as “abnormally dry.”

Recently, the National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration released its spring outlook, forecasting continuing drought-free conditions and residual flood risks as the historical snowpack melts.

Projections for snowmelt runoff are set for release next week and Kern River watershed is predicted to have “an absurdly high 422% of average,” according to Sean de Guzman, water supply forecasting unit manager for the California Department of Water Resources, according to Fox 11.

And new numbers from the California Department of Water Resources show that the state’s snowpack total for 2022-23 has most likely exceeded the record set in 1982-83.

Torrents of water now threaten areas of California’s Central Valley as they pour down from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada; the Tulare Lake Basin is an area of particular concern.

Compare all this to 2021, when, according to U.S. Drought Monitor’s June 8 data, “extreme” and “exceptional”—i.e. the worst—drought conditions were impacting states from Washington down through Utah, California, and Nevada, and as far south as Texas.

According to thesame data set, “extreme” and “exceptional”—i.e. the worst—drought conditions are afflicting states from Washington down through Utah, California, and Nevada, and as far south as Texas.

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