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Drought monitor update: California out of extreme drought for 1st time since 2020

Severe storms not enough to recharge California's groundwater
Severe storms not enough to recharge California's groundwater 02:52

A parade of atmospheric river-fueled winter storms in California and other western states has erased the most extreme drought conditions for the first time since 2020 and more water is on the way, forecasters predict.

The U.S. Drought Monitor's latest conditions report shows no part of California is in the Extreme or Exceptional Drought designations that blanketed most of the state last summer. 

Most of the central portion of the state is completely free of drought conditions from the latest readings on March 14. Parts of Northern and Southern California are still showing Abnormally Dry or Moderate Drought on the scale, while Moderate Drought conditions are still in place in parts of Siskiyou, Lassen, Modoc, Inyo and San Bernardino counties 

Record snowfall and rain have helped to loosen drought's grip on parts of the western U.S. as national forecasters and climate experts warned Thursday that some areas should expect more flooding as the snow begins to melt.

Despite the receding drought, experts cautioned that the relief may be only a blip as the long-term effects persist from what has been a stubborn dry streak.

Groundwater and reservoir storage levels - which take much longer to bounce back - remain at historic lows. 

Overall, the West has been more dry than wet for more than 20 years, and many areas will still feel the consequences. The northern Rockies and parts of Washington state will likely see drought expand over the spring, while areas of extreme to exceptional drought are likely to persist across parts of the southern High Plains.

Jon Gottschalck, chief of the operational prediction branch at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said the start of the fire season in the Southwestern U.S. likely will be delayed.

"But it doesn't mean that it couldn't end up being a very strong season," he said. "It's just likely to be a more muted beginning for sure."

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