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Fall rainfall below average amid drought
drought map
The United States Drought Monitor shows much of California in a drought as local rainfall fails to reach historically-expected levels.

As California’s continued state of moderate drought persists, local rainfall over the last two and a half months has failed to meet historical averages. 

During Turlock Irrigation District’s Board meeting on Nov. 17, hydrologist Olivia Cramer shared that the 2020-21 water year, which began in September, has seen the region receive 0.8 inches of precipitation through Nov. 15. Historically, the average for those first three months of the water year combined has measured 6.7 inches, meaning the Tuolumne River Watershed has received just 17.3 percent of the historical average amount of rainfall for the date.

Recent data from the United States Drought Monitor as of Nov. 10 showed that throughout the state, a majority of California counties are experiencing some level of drought. There are 16 counties with areas that have been classified as experiencing “extreme drought,” while Stanislaus County is one of about 20 counties that is in a “moderate drought.” 

It is estimated that nearly 16 million Californians are currently living in drought areas. According to the monitor, 84.52 percent of the state is experiencing drought in levels zero (abnormally dry) through four (exceptional drought).

Cramer added that the local region can expect anywhere from a quarter-inch to a half-inch of rainfall over the next eight days — and those are just forecasts, which can be unpredictable. Areas at 6,500 feet elevation will likely see snow during the storm, which will likely hold off from melting for a few days as temperatures remain cold.

About 60 percent of the watershed is below 6,500 feet, however, so the storm will mostly bring rainfall. The historical average for rainfall in November is 4.15 inches. 

“If we do receive all of this precipitation, we’ll probably end up at about 50 percent or less for the month of November,” Cramer said.