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California is drought-free for the first time in nearly a decade

Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Small portions in the far northern and southern parts of the state were still marked as "abnormally dry," but elsewhere, the map registered no drought conditions at all. In San Diego County, reservoirs were only 65 percent full, which contributed to the dry conditions in that area, Blunden said.

And conditions are expected to return to normal next week in Northern California, she said. With another storm expected within a week in San Diego, that area also would likely come out of its dry spell entirely.

After a cold winter in Southern California, the Santa Ana winds are returning, while a high pressure system will help raise the temperatures, said Jimmy Taeger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The winter chill set records in downtown Los Angeles, which recorded its coldest February in nearly 60 years. There had never been a February since July 1877, when record-keeping began in downtown L.A., that the temperature failed to reach the 70-degree mark.

In contrast, the highs for this weekend in the Los Angeles area are expected to hit 78. In San Diego, the mercury could reach 75 degrees Sunday for the first time since late January.

The warm weather is rolling into the region on strong winds. In Los Angeles, the weather service issued a wind advisory Thursday morning, noting that winds between 15 and 25 mph would roll through, with gusts up to 40 mph from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills.

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Temperatures might be creeping up, but as for the rain, Taeger said "we're not completely over with it yet."

Offshore winds will subside, bringing a 40 percent chance of a storm coming through San Diego over Wednesday and Thursday. Next weekend will bring more warm temperatures, but another storm could materialize toward the end of March, forecasters said.

The rainy trend has extended across the United States, making for vast improvements in drought conditions, especially in the Western part of the country. Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, for example, have made significant progress, though much of those states are still classified as abnormally dry and are still experiencing drought conditions, Blunden said.

But storms are raging in some areas. A blizzard is moving over Colorado and Arizona, and New Mexico on Wednesday had heavy thunderstorms, which could significantly alleviate drought conditions in the next few weeks.

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