Storms Dumping on Northern California Give Hope of El Niño Beginning to Fill Up Low Reservoirs

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Dried mud and the remnants of a marina are shown at the New Melones Lake reservoir, on May 25, 2015, when it was at less than 20% capacity. (Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

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After months of warnings by some officials that El Niño and winter rains were far from certain, the bounty of storms plowing through Northern California has opened hope that there could be a huge improvement in the state’s severe drought by spring.

A convoy of storms since January has marched through areas that could most use the water — California’s mountainous north, which holds the state’s largest reservoirs, in desperate need of replenishment. A new storm is expected to move through Northern California on Friday and Saturday, and could dump as much as an inch of rain in San Francisco, 2 inches in Sacramento, and as much as 3 feet of snow in the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

“It’s starting to make a dent, definitely,” said Alan Haynes, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Sacramento. “If storms continue and we keep getting wet into the spring, like we’re projecting because of the El Niño … we have a good shot at filling up the reservoirs and building up the snowpack.”

The water content in the snow in the northern Sierra is at 124% of average for this time of year; the central Sierra clocks in at 117% of average; and the southern Sierra at 96%. The statewide average is 113%.

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