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Kern County Desert, Kern River Valley and mountains east of Tehachapi now classified in drought status

Los Angeles City Hall, drought, lawn watering
Posted at 6:26 AM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 11:33:18-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The latest U.S. Drought Monitor Report was released this morning, and for the first time in months, a portion of Kern County is now included in the state's drought status. The Kern County Desert, Kern River Valley, and mountains east of Tehachapi are now considered to be "abnormally dry", which is the lowest ranking of drought.

We actually started the year with increasing drought status, as January and February were unusually dry. Bakersfield only collected 0.24" of rain in January (down 0.92" from the monthly average) and we only saw 0.01" inch of rain, barely above a trace, for the whole month of February (down 1.23" from the monthly average). But thankfully we experienced what many in the state dubbed a "Miracle March", as Winter recovered at the last minute with storms that brought 1.57" of rain to Bakersfield (up 0.36" above the monthly average). Since then we have been dry, but that's seasonal for us here in Central California.

This morning's Drought Monitor report for the past week says: "Dry weather dominated the Far West, including California, the Great Basin, the northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest, leading to extensive drought intensification as wildfires continued to burn hundreds of thousands of acres and degrade air quality. However, temperatures fell from record-setting levels that had been achieved earlier in the month.

During the heat wave, which peaked amid the previous drought-monitoring period, September 6 was the hottest day ever recorded in California locations such as Woodland Hills (121°F), Paso Robles (117°F), and San Luis Obispo (117°F). Many other communities from California to the Southwest reported record-high September temperatures.

The list of September records set or tied on the 6th included 120°F in Needles, California; 117°F in Riverside, California; 112°F in Gilroy and Lancaster, California; 110°F in Kingman, Arizona, and Stockton, California; 109°F in Sacramento, California; 105°F in Hanksville, Utah; 99°F in Cedar City, Utah; and 91°F in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Intense heat persisted through September 7 in the San Francisco Bay area, where Gilroy again reached 112°F. Richmond, California, noted its highest-ever temperature (107°F) on the 7th, tying September 15, 1971.

By September 13, USDA topsoil moisture was rated at least 60% very short to short in every Western state except Arizona. Rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor ranged from 35% in Nevada and Utah to 82% in Oregon. A new patch of exceptional drought (D4) was introduced along the Nevada-Utah border.

Extreme drought (D3) was expanded in several areas, including western Oregon. However, the eastern edge of the West, mainly from Wyoming to New Mexico, received some much-needed precipitation. In some cases, however, the rain and snow merely staved off further drought intensification.

Still, September 7-8 snowfall in Wyoming totaled 7.5 inches in Casper and 4.7 inches in Lander. Alamosa, Colorado, received an incredible 13.6 inches of snow from September 8-10, breaking a monthly record originally set when 10.0 inches fell on September 27-28, 1936."

In summary for the national drought, they report "Dozens of dangerous and sometimes deadly wildfires continued to burn across the West, with the greatest concentration of blazes affecting the parched Pacific Coast States.

By mid-September, 16 active fires in California, Oregon, and Washington had scorched at least 100,000 acres of vegetation, along with two in Colorado. At least a dozen active wildfires had destroyed more than 100 structures, while some three dozen fatalities have been reported, with several individuals still unaccounted for.

Farther east, periods of heavy rain (and high-elevation snow) occurred across portions of the Rockies, Plains, and Midwest, boosting topsoil moisture and benefiting drought-stressed rangeland and pastures. However, excessive rain fell in some areas, including parts of Texas, sparking local flooding.

In conjunction with the heavy precipitation, a sharp, early-season cold snap delivered record-setting low temperatures across the Plains, Rockies, and upper Midwest, while summer-like heat lingered along and near the Pacific Coast. Meanwhile, heavy showers associated with Tropical Storm Sally—later a hurricane—spread across Florida’s peninsula during the weekend of September 12-13. Excessive rain fell in southern portions of the state, including the Florida Keys.

Later, as a Category 2 hurricane, Sally made landfall on September 16 near Gulf Shores, Alabama, around 4:45 am CDT, with sustained winds near 105 mph. Sally dumped historic and catastrophic amounts of rain in southern Alabama and western Florida. In addition, high winds caused extensive damage and power outages along and near the Gulf Coast, while a significant coastal storm surge occurred along and to the east of the landfall location. Once inland, Sally exhibited rapid weakening but continued to spark heavy rainfall and flash flooding."