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Kern County officially improves the drought from exceptional to extreme category

Drought improvement for Kern County
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Posted at 6:08 AM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 14:22:30-05

For the first time in years, Kern County has seen an official improvement in our drought ranking.

As of this morning's Drought Monitor report, the driest portion of Kern County is now in the D3 Extreme category, an improvement from the D4 Exceptional (and worst) ranking! As for the south San Joaquin valley, you can see we are in the D2 category, or Severe Drought ranking.

So how did this happen? Well, it was all of that rain of course! After an above average month of rain in December and a very wet start to the month of January, as of two weeks ago, Kern County had seen a remarkable improvement in the drought, but the Frazier Park area (and the Los Angeles National Forest to the south of the county line) remained in the highest and worst category of Exceptional Drought (D4).

As of this morning, thanks to that series of three powerful storms over the last week, we have seen an official improvement to the drought for the entire county! Now the Frazier Park area is in the D3 ranking, or also known as the category of Extreme Drought. That means the drought persists, and we are still the driest region in the state, but we'll eagerly take the improvement!

So as of today's report, 2% of the state (that Frazier Park and Angeles National Forest area) is in the D3 Extreme Drought category, 21% is in the D2 Severe Drought category, 51% is in the D1 Moderate category and 61% is "Exceptionally Dry". That means 38% of the state is out of the drought completely!

The US Drought Monitor report this morning further explains this improvement... "Farther west, light to moderate precipitation prompted a few improvements from central Nevada southward through southeastern California, but heavy to excessive precipitation pounded areas farther west through most of California, particularly the Sierra Nevada, coastal locations, and the southwestern interior. Between 8 and 12 inches were common through the Sierra Nevada while 4 to locally 10 inches were dropped on areas farther west and southwest. Adjacent areas to the east of the Sierra Nevada and most of central and south-central California (outside a small area south of the Sierra Nevada) recorded at least an inch. According to the San Joaquin precipitation index (an average across that region), January was the wettest ever observed in 112 years of record, and 4- to 5-year precipitation totals climbed dramatically from approximately the 2 percentile level as of early January to around the 20th percentile through this week. Statewide average snowpack (snow water equivalent) is almost twice normal for late January, and somewhat more than twice normal in the southern Sierra Nevada. Amounts actually exceed those typically recorded April 1 (snowpack climatological maximum). Given these dramatically wet indicators, widespread 1-category improvements were again instituted this week, wiping D4 from the state and restricting D3 to part of southwestern California. It should be noted, however, that to date groundwater levels have not responded as one might expect, and remain critically low. In most of the central foothills on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, plus a number of other communities and cities across the nearby mountains and valleys, water supply is dependent on groundwater. Thus potable water is still being trucked in to serve residents with dry wells in areas such as Tuolumne County, and the deepest wells may not respond to the recent inundation for many more months."

Meanwhile, the California Nevada River Forecast Center reported Wednesday that our seasonal precipitation across California (meaning the water year that started on October 1, 2016) has been amazing, with 5.79" of accumulation in Bakersfield equating to 203% of our average rainfall!

So what does that mean? Well this is great news, but we're not out of danger yet, and water conservation needs to continue statewide.

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