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March rain brings relief, but drought conditions remain
The prayers for rain have been answered in Turlock as the much needed rain made its presence this week (File photo). - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

Dry conditions throughout the state received a bit of help this week thanks to recent rainfall, which is anticipated to continue in the coming days.

In February, the U.S. Drought Monitor declared that some parts of the state have been pushed back into a drought following a significantly dry winter in California.

According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map of California, 48.1 percent of the state is in a moderate drought due to the dry conditions. This is compared to 34 percent of the state a week ago.

The eastern area of Stanislaus County is considered to be abnormally dry according to the map, while the rest of the county and majority of the San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Los Angeles are in a moderate drought. It’s the highest percentage in California since January 2019.

Prior to this week’s rainfall, the current water year beginning in September was the fourth driest in Turlock Irrigation District’s history. The month of March has helped boost the water year totals, so far.

“We finally had a break from our dry weather and we received about 2.62 inches within the watershed,” TID Utility Analyst Olivia Cramer said during Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting.

As of March 15, the 2.62 inches of precipitation received in the Tuolumne River Watershed brought the year-to-date total to 14.28 inches, or about 51 percent of normal for the date. On Average, the month of March typically brings around 5.35 inches of rainfall.

Within the next eight days, Turlock is expected to see another one to two inches of precipitation, while the watershed will receive anywhere from two and a half to three inches.

At the end of the 16-day forecast, it’s anticipated up to four inches of rainfall will be added to the watershed.

“Overall, what this does is it adds about four more inches to our year, and would put us at 59.3 percent on April 1,” Cramer said.

The boost in percent of normal for the date is a welcome sight after several lackluster months in terms of precipitation, including October (zero inches), November (1.88 inches), January (1.69 inches) and February (.03 inches).

The Central Sierra Snowpack is also currently at 50 percent of normal for the date, down from 58 percent of normal in February. The entire snowpack is just 38 percent of its historical average — down from 92 percent on New Year’s Day.

Despite the low numbers, rain in March and more to come was encouraging for the Board.

“In these uncertain times, it’s great to hear some good news today,” Director Michael Frantz said. “That was a great report.”