Drought finally over for 83 percent of California, scientists say

The historic drought that plagued California for five years is finally over in nearly every part of the state, federal scientists reported Thursday.

Because of the latest round of soaking storms that crumpled Oroville Dam’s spillway, flooded downtown San Jose and caused mudslides across Southern California, 83 percent of California is now out of drought completely — the lowest level since December 2011, when the drought first began.

That’s the conclusion of the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The study analyzes rainfall, reservoir levels, soil moisture, groundwater levels and other factors.

A year ago, only 5 percent of the state was classified as not being in a drought.

Rather than the depleted reservoirs, barren streams and a dearth of snow that marked the last five years, the problem now, as any Californian who has read or watched the news in recent weeks knows, is too much water.

“Days of heavy precipitation continued to improve mountain snowpack, but created areas of flooding,” wrote Richard Heim, a meteorologist with NOAA and author of this week’s Drought Monitor report.

The turnaround has been remarkable. Thursday’s report shows no part of the state in “extreme drought” for the first time in four years. Every Bay Area county, every coastal county north of San Luis Obispo and all of the Central…

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