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California droughts continue to worsen as fire season approaches


(NEW YORK) — The drought conditions in the Golden State are continuing to appear grim as multiple states in the West prepare for an extended fire season due to dryer-than-normal conditions.

A drizzle of rain that moved quickly through California’s Bay Area Saturday was not nearly enough to saturate the arid land.

About 77% of California is experiencing severe drought in 2021, a state that has the fourth-most property at risk for fire damage, according to this year’s Homeowners Insurance and Wildfire Coverage survey by insurance agency QuoteWizard.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in Sonoma and Mendocino counties and directed state agencies to bolster drought resilience, as well as prepare for impacts on communities, businesses and ecosystems if dry conditions extend to a third year.

Parts of Sonoma County were forecast to get half an inch of rain on Saturday, but the area saw significantly less precipitation, Paul Lowenthal, assistant fire marshal for the Santa Rosa Fire Department, told ABC San Francisco station KGO.

“The reality is that we ended up with quite a bit less, so we’re faced with what we anticipate as potentially a long dry summer,” Lowenthal said, adding that the fire department will likely declare an early start to the fire season.

This year is expected to be the driest ever for the East Bay, district officials told KGO. Much of the water supply comes from the Sierra foothills, which has only seen about 50% of its average yearly precipitation, the station reported.

The board of water utility, East Bay Mud, is expected to declare a stage 1 drought this week, which would ask for a 10% voluntary reduction of water use district wide.

Dry conditions are prevalent in other parts of the West as well.

Eight states from South Dakota to Arizona are currently under red-flag warnings for critical fire danger due to strong winds from 40 to 60 mph, relative humidity as low as 5% and bone-dry conditions.

Earlier this month, Colorado state officials also announced more preparations for an extended fire season due to less-than-normal snowfall during the winter.

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