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Two storms eased drought conditions slightly by bringing rain to coastal California and snow to the Sierra mountain range, but failed to deliver a drought-busting punch because of where they delivered most of their precipitation, according to the first U.S. Drought Monitor report since last week's downpours.
The outlook for spring and summer runoff that provides water for the state improved "only slightly," according to the weekly report released Thursday. Although the storm marked the first significant rainfall in months, the systems moved too far south to help key watershed areas in the northern and central parts of the state.
About 22 percent of the state remains in the D4 drought category -- the most severe category, called "Exceptional Drought." That figure decreased slightly from the previous week -- about 26 percent.
The snowpack in the Sierra mountains, a key source of water for the state, increased by 2 inches, but the remained below normal after near-record lows. Dry soils absorbed much of the potential runoff, according to the Drought Monitor report.
Other major reservoirs are still below half capacity.
Showers and occasional downpours soaked California over four days, but the precipitation remained a drop in the bucket after the state's driest year on record. The storm that arrived late last week and an earlier weaker system accounted for 75 percent of this season's precipitation in California.
For example, 4.52 inches of the 5.72 inches of rainfall reported this season in downtown Los Angeles arrived during the recent storms. But totals remain at just 49 percent of normal for the season in downtown Los Angeles.
Feb. 28 marked the wettest day in downtown Los Angeles since March 20, 2011. Los Angeles received at least an inch of rain for three consecutive days -- the first time that's happened since December 2010.
Weather forecasts suggest drought conditions will not change much in the coming week.
"Although some precipitation will graze northern California, central and southern portions of the state will experience warm, mostly dry weather," the report said.
Last month, the state Legislature approved a $687 million plan to provide immediate relief and emergency funding to communities reeling from California driest year on record. The funding includes money for areas running low on drinking water and farming communities where fallowed fields, which are left unseeded during growing season, are leading to high unemployment.