A conveyor belt of strong Pacific storms brought enough rain and snow to California early this winter to knock out drought conditions in the northern part of the state, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report.
More than 40 percent of California is out of the drought after several rounds of storms during the wet season, which began Oct. 1, according to the weekly report. The streams of moisture have caused some flooding, but eliminated drought conditions in the northern half of California.
"We're making progress," said NBC4 Southern California forecaster Crystal Egger. "We still have a ways to go. It's not going to happen in just one season."
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This time last year, 97 percent of the state was in drought.
Parts of California remain in a fifth consecutive year of drought conditions, but the report cited major improvements for the state's water reservoirs and the critical snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range. That snowpack melts in the spring, then flows into the state's water reservoirs, most of which were above the normal Jan. 10 historic level and rising, and provides Californians with much of their year-round water supply.
The snowpack level also is well above normal for Jan. 10, according to the Drought Monitor.
The most severe drought conditions -- identified as exceptional drought -- persist in a small part of southwestern California. That leaves about 2 percent of the state under the most severe drought category, marking a significant improvement from this time last year when 42 percent was under exceptional drought.
California will remain in a drought emergency until Gov. Jerry Brown approves changes to the order he issued in January 2014 to combat consecutive dry years. Brown issued that announcement on a patch of bare grass in the Sierras, which are now buried under snow.
The governor is likely to wait until the end of winter to make a decision.
The Monitor's latest report, compiled by water experts who use soil moisture, stream levels and snowpack to make their estimates, includes data through Tuesday Jan. 10. More rain and snow arrived Wednesday and Thursday.
The storms are expected to move out ahead of the weekend, provided a much-needed break for Northern California residents who have faced flooding and the threat of landslides.