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Almost half of California in drought-free status after recent heavy rain

Mountain shot in San Diego
Posted at 5:20 PM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 21:14:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly half of California is now drought-free. That's huge progress, but it could be bad news for wildfire season. Back in October, 94% of the state suffered from severe drought or worse. Now, 45% of the state has no drought at all.

"It's a huge thing. After three years of drought, we've been pummeled by wildfires. We've been hit by all kinds of problems from this," said Dr. Pat Abbott, a geologist. "It's a wonderful change, and I'm delighted to see it."

Dr. Abbott says the recent drought progress can protect the landscape.

"Right now for 2023, things are looking good. Doesn't mean they will remain so. But they're looking good," said Dr. Abbott. "We have moist soil, healthy and hydrated plants. But that could change with several heat waves."

That means a long dry spell could turn new vegetation into fuel.

"More heat, more vegetation dried out and more mega-fires. The huge wildfires we're typically used to," said Dr. Abbott.

But with another atmospheric river on the way to bring more rain, Dr. Abbott says only time will tell whether the wet start to the year will backfire.

"We're sort of paying the price for the rain with cliff collapses, water pipes beneath the surface breaking," said Dr. Abbott. "But when you look at that, and I'm not trying to belittle it, but if you look at the benefit of healthy plants and reservoirs filling, we're getting far more gain than we're losing."

10News meteorologists along with the National Weather Service predict drier conditions in April and May.