LOS ANGELES (AP) – Heavy downpours took a parting shot Thursday at California, triggering flash floods that temporarily stranded more than three dozen people in their cars in inland Riverside County as the state took stock of the effects of days of steady downpours.
The stranded drivers and city employees in San Jacinto Valley spent the day digging their cars out of mud and cleaning up after the deluge. No one was injured.
The Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County, closed since an earlier weekend storm sent mud and rocks into the roadway, was open again by late afternoon.
The dwindling storm brought some relief to the parched state, but a new analysis showed how much more rain and snow is needed to pull it from its historic drought.
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More than 99 percent of California remained in moderate or worse drought despite rains received through the end of November, national drought experts said.
The data cutoff for the update was Tuesday, meaning most rain and snow from the latest storm was not included. However, experts said they don’t expect the needle will move much when the latest precipitation is tallied.
“One event isn’t going to take away three years of drought,” said climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska.
The update shows the California’s drought status was unchanged from the previous week, meaning 55 percent of the state still is considered in the most extreme category of drought while 99.7 percent remains in moderate drought or worse.
The past two months have seen several back-to-back rainstorms, and the rain in recent days was among the heaviest that some areas had seen in years.
The system dropped widely varying amounts of rain, ranging from trace levels in some areas to 14.5 inches at Yucaipa Ridge in the San Bernardino Mountains. San Francisco saw 4.3 inches, while 1.5 inches fell on downtown Los Angeles, according to the National Weather Service.
The San Francisco Bay Area reached or exceeded normal annual rainfall totals for the first time in years.
The storm put downtown Los Angeles slightly above normal for the season to date. Since July 1, it has recorded 2.30 inches of rain compared with the normal average of 2.14 inches by Dec. 4.
Fuchs and other climatologists stressed that California needs to see a consistent pattern of storms to move beyond its driest three years on record.
Along with rain and snow, drought monitors consider the water levels in reservoirs, rivers and streams, soil moisture, and dozens of other factors.
AP writer Ellen Knickmeyer in San Francisco contributed to this story.