Drought returns to California amid dry winter

This Feb. 20 map shows the increasing areas of drought in California. Valley News/U.S. Drought Monitor photo

Drought has returned to California due to a significantly dry winter, the U.S. Drought Monitor said recently.

The weekly report issued by the agency, designates nearly 60% of the state, including the central and southern Sierra Nevada and adjacent areas of the Central Valley, as being in some level of drought.

While Riverside County remains drought-free, as of Feb. 21, Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District shows Temecula as receiving only 7.11 inches of rain so far this season, less than half of the annual average of 16 inches. Lake Elsinore, which has an annual average of 11 inches has received 6.59 inches of rain and Hemet, with an annual average of 13 inches only receiving 4.82 inches or 37% of its annual average.

California had been drought-free since the early December.

The Feb. 19 Rainfall Summary Report shows rainfall shortages throughout the Temecula Valley and surrounding areas. Valley News/Courtesy photo

“Across Nevada and California, however, dryness and drought intensification prevailed,” the U.S. Drought Monitor said. “On the 60-day time scale, markedly low precipitation totals – among the driest 5% of historical occurrences – covered most of a swath across central sections of California and Nevada, and 30-day amounts were less remarkable but still significantly below normal across most of the two states, outside the far northern and southern tiers.”

In particular, central and southern parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where Southern California’s water supply comes from via the California Aqueduct, accumulated a deficit of 9 inches to locally near 20 inches of precipitation, which is about half of normal, and snowpack is less than 60% of normal for the date in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, the agency said.

A designation of “abnormally dry” was expanded into San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties as well as parts of northeastern California.

The National Weather Service office for the Los Angeles region said no change in the dry pattern is expected in the next two weeks and if there’s no rain many locations will be nearing the driest combined January and February on record.

State water authorities have noted that, fortunately, reservoirs are either at or above historical averages due to a wet 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com.