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San Diego nearing 1,000 days of drought

Despite Tuesday’s thunderstorms, San Diego is nearing a grim milestone of 1,000 days of drought. The conditions are taking a toll across the state.

Since Jan. 1, 2011, the amount of statewide rainfall has been dismal. In the 3.5 years since a drought was declared, most regions in San Diego County have fallen more than a foot of rain below average, said Alex Tardy, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Diego.

“So everything is stressed including the water supply, soil moisture is extremely dry, and fuel vegetation and fire weather is basically near record levels,” Tardy said.

The last significant rain accumulation in San Diego County occurred in December 2010 when a rare atmospheric river system brought wave after wave of storms, dumping five inches in downtown, Tardy said.

Record warm temperatures continue to fuel the drought. Tardy said 2014 has been the hottest year in San Diego County since temperatures began being recorded 120 years ago.

More than half of the state is experiencing "exceptional" drought. Most of San Diego County falls in the "severe" drought category, Sept. 17, 2014. Image courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

More than half of the state is experiencing “exceptional” drought. Most of San Diego County falls in the “severe” drought category, Sept. 17, 2014. Image courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

“All things that could aggravate the drought and make it worse pretty much came into alignment this year,” Tardy said. “And that’s why almost the entire state is in the D4, which is the highest level of drought.

The dryness has led to increased fires across the state. This year alone, 1,000 more wildfires than average have charred tinder dry hillsides.

Hot and dry conditions have also decreased statewide water supplies to 33 percent of capacity. Southern California’s largest reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake, has dropped to 51 percent of capacity — a 30 percent decline since January.

The conditions are on track to surpass the historic drought of 1976.

“Last year was the exclamation mark, because not only did we have insignificant rainfall and runoff…our snowpack was the worst, or was easily tied with 1976-77,” Tardy said.

Tardy said above average temperatures are expected to continue through the fall.


KPBS San Diego has more coverage on the continuing California drought in 2014.

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