LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – California is now officially drought-free for the first time in more than seven years.
The National Weather Service confirmed the state’s drought status Thursday, which had previously been in some form of drought since December 20, 2011, totaling 376 consecutive weeks.
Less than 7 percent of California remains in the lesser condition of abnormal dryness, compared with roughly 34 percent in early February.
An exceptionally wet winter has left hills blackened by huge wildfires with lush coats of green, and snow has fallen in the usually temperate suburbs of Southern California, where chilly conditions have made jackets and scarves the rule.
None of this was expected as recently as October, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center issued its outlook for December through February.
The scenario envisioned above-average temperatures in the western U.S., continuation of drought in Southern California and only equal chances of a wet or dry year in the rest of the state.
That abruptly changed the following month as the center cited high confidence in a forecast for wetter than usual conditions in the West and predicted at least improvement if not a complete end to drought conditions throughout much of California.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)