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Rain and snow comes to dry Northern California, but not enough to ease drought

  • 4b453ced3aae5d044a0f6a7067005b3e.jpg

    After a 52 day dry spell, residents finally found need of umbrellas as the first storm of the new year moved into in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) (The Associated Press)

  • aaf8f95f39f95a044a0f6a7067008d0d.jpg

    After a 52 day dry spell, umbrella were finally in need as the first storm of the new year moved into in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Storms are expected to move through Northern California bringing to the valley and snow to the mountains to help relieve the parched landscape. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) (The Associated Press)

Northern California is finally getting wet weather after some areas have gone without measurable rain for weeks. But the precipitation won't help much to ease the drought that plagued the region.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website predicted just 0.1 inch of rain in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday. But more than 2 inches were expected in parts of Sacramento and as much as 2 feet of snow at higher elevations in the northern Sierra, where snow was falling on Thursday morning and drivers were required to have chains on their vehicles.

The San Francisco Bay Area has had only about 10-20 percent of the precipitation that it usually gets this time of year, said National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson.

San Francisco International Airport normally has 11.35 inches by this point in the season, but it has had only 1.5 inches.

Santa Rosa Airport normally gets 20.71, but has had only 2.10 this season.

"So far, it's been a very dry year. The last time we had measurable rain around the Bay Area was Dec. 7," she said. "That is not what we think of as typical."

More than 21 inches must fall by the end of the rainy season on June 30 — an unlikely prospect — for the region to get back to its normal levels, Henderson said.

"It would be nice if we got it," she added, "but hopefully not all at once."

Despite the storms expected to bring some snow to higher elevations this week, the Department of Water Resources expects to find far less snow than normal when it conducts it second survey of the winter Thursday.

Brown, who declared a drought emergency on Jan. 17, will meet in Los Angeles with officials from throughout the state to discuss ways that Californians can conserve water.

Because of the drought, 17 rural California communities are now in danger of a severe water shortage within four months, according to a list compiled by state officials.

Residents of urban areas for the most part have not felt the effects of the drought so far, but the percentage of Californians expressing concern about water shortages and the drought is at a record high, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Seven percent said water and the drought should be the top concern of the governor and state Legislature, but that sentiment was highest in the Central Valley, where 18 percent of respondents listed the drought as the top issue.

The economy, education and the state budget dominated the priorities of survey respondents, as they usually do.

Other areas on the state list of vulnerable communities include small water districts in Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Kern, Amador, Mendocino, Nevada and Placer counties.

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Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com

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