Leaning against a wooden rail, environmental activist Geoffrey McQuilkin took stock of a parched geological wonderland that had been altered by a weekend deluge.
The air was still thick with moisture, and this lake’s tributaries were cascading down from surrounding mountains, swollen by cargoes of fresh snowmelt and rain. Frothy whitecaps and wavelets lapped over grass meadows that had been dry ground only a week ago. The lake’s famous tufa formations — for so long a symbol of California’s lack of water — were capped with snow.
Similar scenes were playing out at lakes and reservoirs across Northern California as weeks of heavy rain and snow brought them back to life. Throughout the course of California’s nearly six-year drought, the declining water levels at these places became a stark symbol of the state’s water shortage. Now, they serve as barometers of the state’s rapidly evolving drought picture.
Lake Tahoe has risen 12 inches in just the last two weeks as the storms have dumped 33.6 billion gallons of water into the massive landmark, which measures 72 miles around and has a capacity for 37 trillion gallons of water.
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