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Parade of California storms put dent in drought

CBS News Live
CBS News Sacramento Live

 Atmospheric rivers pounding California since late last year have coated mountains with a full winter's worth of snow and begun raising reservoir levels — but experts say it will take much more precipitation to reverse the effects of years of drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor's weekly update released on Thursday showed that "extreme" drought has been virtually eliminated a week after the worst category — "exceptional" — was washed off the map. Two weeks ago extreme drought covered 35% of California.

In November, 41% of the state was experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions. Today, that number is less than 1%.  

The Drought Monitor characterized the improvement as a significant reduction in drought intensity but cautioned that large parts of the state have moisture deficits that have been entrenched for two or three years.

Most of the state is now in the "severe" or "moderate" categories of drought, with small areas in the far northwest and far southeast in a status described as "abnormally dry," which is the lowest level.

After significant damage to some communities and at least 18 deaths, California was in a lull between storms Thursday, but more precipitation was expected to arrive on Friday and continue through the weekend. Flooding remained a concern, especially along the Salinas River in Monterey County, because so much rain has fallen.

After the storms, the major water supply -- reservoirs around Northern California -- still have room, even after the recent series of significant storms.

Still, some reservoirs are up relative to their seasonal average.

As of Thursday, Folsom Lake is at 404', which is 42 percent of total capacity (and 98 percent of the historic average). This is actually down from the 55 percent of capacity it was a week ago, thanks to water managers continuing releases from the reservoir. 

Camanche Lake is also reading at 73 percent of capacity, good for 123 percent of its historic average.

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