PHILLIPS STATION (AP) — California’s water managers are measuring as little as 3 percent of normal snowpack in areas of the Sierra Nevada mountains as they conduct the first manual surveys of the state’s crucial winter snowfall.

Water managers took the measurements Wednesday in a grassy Sierra meadow that was almost bare of snow.

Up to 60 percent of California’s water supply starts out as snow in the Sierras. Snowpack so far this year is a fourth of normal across the region.

Southern California wildfires that grew to the biggest in state history in December — normally the rainy season in California — already have made clear the bottom line: The state is far drier than normal so far this winter.

Near-record rainfall last year unleashed widespread flooding and snapped a historic five-year drought. The wet 2017 allowed Gov. Jerry Brown in April to lift a drought emergency declaration that had brought mandatory water conservation orders for cities and towns, and water cutbacks for many rural users.

This year, meteorologists point to a strengthening La Niña weather pattern in the Pacific, which typically brings drier weather. A stubborn ridge of high pressure in the Pacific — the same bad guy during the state’s drought — is blocking storms from reaching Southern California in particular.

People in California’s southwest last felt any significant rain in February, the National Weather Service noted this week. Los Angeles is marking a record dry spell, with rainfall just 9 percent of normal for the past 10 months, the weather service said.

Department of Water Resources director Grant Davis says state reservoirs still have good supplies from a rainy winter last year. Davis notes the state still has ample time left for big snowstorms.

Davis says there is still a lot of winter left to make up the precipitation.

“Our message to the public as we begin to do our first snow survey…is it’s still very early in the season,” Carlson said. “Anything could happen.”

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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