In the first significant storm since Oct. 1, parts of central California and the northern Sierra Nevada saw 6-12 inches of precipitation, but it wasn't enough to begin to take the long-term drought that still plagues the area, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday.
This week's Drought Monitor author David Miskus of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the central Sierra still needs 3-4 more big storms to bring this wet season close to average.
Nevertheless, two small areas of improvement were made in locations where the greatest precipitation fell. The Folsom Reservoir on the American River was the big winner in the recent event, doubling its storage; however, it would need to double again to get back to average, Miskus says.
"So to get with this brief glimmer of good news, the bad news is that California has a long, long way to go to get back to normal," Miskus says. February 2012 through January 2014 is the driest two year period on record for the state.
Gov. Jerry Brown visited with farmers on Wednesday at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., chastising lawmakers for fighting over issues with drought assistance, The Fresno Bee reports. President Obama is scheduled to visit Fresno on Friday.
Farther north, moderate to severe drought continues in both Washington and Oregon and a small stretch of extreme drought remains in Idaho, where heavy precipitation fell. Since the previous three months had been relatively dry in the West, however, only minor improvements were made where the greatest precipitation fell.
In light of rapidly accumulating 90-day shortages of over 20 inches along the western coast and 4-8 inches in north-central sections, Miskus says severe drought was expanded northward from Oregon into the Seattle-Tacoma area, and introduced in north-central portions. Moderate drought was also expanded eastward into northern Idaho while abnormally dry conditions slightly shifted into northwestern Montana.
Chilly conditions gripped much of the lower 48 States, with weekly temperatures averaging more than 10 degrees F below normal into the Plains and Midwest.
Light to moderate snows across eastern Kansas and northern Missouri contributed to a 60-day surplus in this region, which was enough for some improvement. Little or no precipitation fell on the upper Midwest as a whole, and the rest of the Mississippi Valley remained at status-quo.
With the exception of light to moderate snows from the Oklahoma Panhandle northeastward across Kansas, southern Nebraska, and into Missouri and Iowa, and light rain in eastern Texas, little or no precipitation fell on the remainder of the central and southern Plains, Miskus says.
In south-central and northeastern Kansas, where snow amounts were highest, drought was improved by one category. Most areas in Texas and southern Oklahoma showed few changes.
Little or no precipitation was reported in the Southwest as several locations in this region have yet to receive any measurable precipitation during 2014, Miskus says. The lack of appreciable winter precipitation has accumulated short-term deficits as most locations from southern California eastward into New Mexico have measured less than 25% of normal precipitation the past 60 days.
Most of the area remains free of drought, save little pockets in the Northeast and along the coast. Late-period rains fell on the lower Mississippi Valley, with heavier bands of rain oriented from southwest to northeast occurring in central Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and central Alabama.
In the mid-Atlantic, sub-freezing air at the surface and mild air aloft generated a dangerous ice storm in parts of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
Next week will review any effects of the ice and snow storm that hit an area stretching from Atlanta, Ga., to Boston, dumping several inches of snow along the coast and closing government offices in Washington, D.C.