Crippling California Drought Levels Off, Latest Map Shows

(Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

After months of worsening drought across California, conditions appear to have leveled off, at least for now.

According to the latest assessment released Thursday, more than 80 percent of California continues to suffer extreme drought conditions — a figure that has remained unchanged now for roughly two weeks. Things had been on a steady march toward worse, pushing more than half of California to the most severe level of drought for the first time since the federal government began issuing regular drought reports in the late 1990s.

Despite recent thunderstorms, 58 percent of California continues to experience “exceptional” drought — the harshest on a five-level scale. Nearly 82 percent of the state, meanwhile, is experiencing “extreme” drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map.

“It was seasonably dry along the West Coast, with measurable precipitation limited to parts of the Sierra Nevada and northeastern California,” according to Richard Tinker, who authored the latest map. “To wit, areas of dryness and drought remained unchanged.”

The state’s major reservoirs total 59 percent of the historical average, but are “still above the 41 percent of average recorded during the 1976-77 drought.”

Still, Tinker added that some reservoirs in the west-central parts of the state are below 1977 levels.