The Drought Monitor’s weekly report designates just over 9.5 percent of the state, including the central and southern Sierra Nevada and adjacent areas of the Central Valley, as being in “moderate drought.”

Drought has returned to California due to a “significantly dry winter,” the U.S. Drought Monitor said last week, and locally, the first snow survey of 2020 revealed the Mt. Shasta area’s snowpack and water content to be lower than average.

The Drought Monitor’s weekly report designates just over 9.5 percent of the state, including the central and southern Sierra Nevada and adjacent areas of the Central Valley, as being in “moderate drought.”

California had been drought-free since the early December.

The Shasta-McCloud Management Unit measured snow depth and water content at several spots in the Shasta-Trinity forest, including Horse Camp, Sand Flat, Gray Rocks, Sweetwater, Parks Creek, Deadfall Lake and Brewer Creek. Measurements at the Stouts Meadow station are collected by PG&E due to access issues.

In an average of the courses sampled in the Sacramento, Shasta and Trinity watersheds, there were 45 inches of snow measured, compared to last year’s 66.13 inches, according to the data. The historic average is 64.7 inches. This equates to snow depth that’s 69 percent of average.

In the McCloud watershed, snow measured 41 inches, compared to 2019’s 93 inches. The historic average is 54.8 inches, making the Feb. 3 results 74 percent of average.

Although the numbers look bad, Assistant Recreation Officer Marcus Nova noted that the drought years of 2013-15 were far worse.

“In those years, there were months where we had zero inches of reportable snow on our courses,” Nova said. “We are experiencing a below average snowpack but there’s still a lot of winter left and you’ll never know what can happen. A good snowpack is not only important to our winter economy but also the farmers in the valley so we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. In the meantime, break out the sunscreen and enjoy the spring like weather!”

The Drought Monitor expanded a designation of “abnormally dry” into San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and parts of northeastern California.

A week earlier the abnormally dry status applied to the Central Valley and a swath from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Sierra, as well as parts of Siskiyou County.

In particular, the monitor pointed to precipitation deficits in central and southern sections of coastal California and in the central and southern Sierra, and a snowpack that is less than 60 percent of normal to date.

The National Weather Service office for the Los Angeles region said no change in the dry pattern is expected in the next two weeks and if there’s no rain many locations will be nearing the driest combined January and February on record.

State water authorities have noted that, fortunately, reservoirs are either at or above historical averages due to a wet 2019.