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Safe to say, the drought is over!
Feb 2023 drought map
The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows half of Stanislaus County out of the drought -- and this was before last weekend's rainfall.

The series of unrelenting storms that swept through California in recent months have reversed drought conditions and filled up local reservoirs.

According to a map supplied by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the eastern half of Stanislaus County is out of the drought while the west half is classified as “abnormally dry.” Last summer the Valley was classified as being in Extreme Drought.

Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River that flows past Ceres and Modesto is at elevation 789.67 feet as of yesterday, just 40 feet shy of being filled to the brim. The lake was estimated to contain 1,562,843 acre-feet of water and is considered full at 2,030,000 acre-feet.

The lake is expected to fill as the Sierra snowpack melts into the summer.

California’s statewide snowpack level was more than 200 percent above normal in mid-December after powerful storms blanketed the Sierra Nevadas with snow. That total has improved after February storms brought several more feet of snow.

The water content of the snowpack, which provides about a third of California’s water, is more than 160 percent of the historical average on April 1, when it is normally at its peak, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Snowpack was far below normal in the spring of 2022.

Only about 25 percent of California remains in severe drought, a significant improvement from the start of the water year when 94 percent of California was in that category.

The Tuolumne River Watershed so far this year has accumulated 44 inches of precipitation in the system, 176 percent of normal for this date. The yearly average is 36 inches. The recent record is 63 inches, back in 2017 when TID opened the spillway at Don Pedro Reservoir. 

Regarding snowfall, Donner Pass on Interstate 80 near Reno has accumulated nearly 12 feet of snow over the past week. So far this year, more than 44 feet have fallen on the Central Sierra Snow Lab in Nevada County. That’s more than double what we normally receive this time of year. 

The upcoming storms figure to be warmer than recent systems, which could cause melting of the snowpack. While that’s not a major concern for now, it is something worth monitoring, said Cramer.

Because of the exceptional amounts of precipitation, Turlock Irrigation District will push back the start of its irrigation season, which was slated to begin March 2. 

“If we’d have started today, because of the recent rain, nobody would’ve wanted to irrigate,” TID communications specialist Brandon McMillan said Thursday.

The TID board of directors determined on Feb. 21 that March 2 was to be the start of the 2023 irrigation season. But recent storms made it a moot point. The board was to decide a new date at yesterday’s meeting.

“There won’t be any changes to the amount of water customers will receive and there won’t be any change to the season’s end date,” said McMillan. 

TID customers are set to receive their full allotment of water – 48 inches – and the end of the season is set for Nov. 1. 

McMillan indicated the irrigation season could start by the middle of next week, or perhaps the following week. 

 Joe Cortez contributed to this report.