After four straight days of rain that are being called the “March Miracle,” several key water reservoirs in the north of the state have been replenished after five straight years of drought.
The sudden wave of storms that started in early March drenched the entire state, causing some schools and roads to closes, as well as flooding and power outages in some areas. More than 7,000 people were left without power in Washoe County, while about 2,500 homes in the town of Moraga were left without gas after a sinkhole opened and ruptured a gas line.
Northern California was hit the hardest by the sudden downpour. Weather forecasters had to issue an avalanche warning along the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. California’s highest snowpeaks received almost five feet of snow over the second weekend of March. That’s very important because snowpack usually provides about 30 percent of the state’s total water supply. After the storm came warm temperatures and clear skies for most of California.
The sudden downpour brought tragedy, as well. California Highway Patrolman Nathan Taylor was struck and killed by a vehicle that lost control in the weather while he was directing traffic around an accident site near Truckee.
Lake Shasta, the state’s largest water reservoir and a critical resource for Central Valley farmers and cities from the Bay Area to Bakersfield, has reached levels not seen since 2013. Lake Shasta is now at 79 percent of full capacity and 103 percent of its historical average. March 6 marked Lake Shasta’s biggest single-day rise in 12 years, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
Elsewhere, Butte County’s Lake Oroville is now at 70 percent of full capacity and 97 percent of its historical average. Together, Lakes Shasta and Oroville can hold more than 8 million acre feet of water. Lake Shasta would need about another 1 million acre feet of water to reach full capacity, and if the March Miracle continues, both Shasta and Oroville could reach full capacity by April, something which has not happened in 12 years.
Meanwhile, Lake Folsom, 25 miles north of Sacramento, is at 116 percent of its historical average and reached 69 percent of its of full capacity after the unexpected March downpour. Despite the near overflow at Lake Shasta, Oroville and Folsom, other critical reservoirs remain dry, according to Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Shane Hunt. While Hunt welcomed the welcome news from Lake Shasta and Oroville, he remarked that the artificial Lake Melones in the Sierra Nevada Foothills remains dry.
Surfers in Southern California were advised to stay away from the beaches for a few days. The National Weather Service warned of waves up to 9 feet high would pound many beaches during the downpour.
The March Miracle has water officials taking a second look at the mandatory 25 percent cutbacks that Gov. Jerry Brown issued last year. A spokesperson for the State Water Resources Control Board said the agency would reconsider the mandatory cutbacks again in May.
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(all data current as of 10/19/2017)
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