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California drought prompts emergency declaration by governor

High pressure continues to create a critical drought situation in southern California
High pressure continues to create a critical drought situation in southern California
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

More of the same indicated by latest forecast models. What may the "worst drought ever" continues to impact two-thirds of the California landscape.

Following 12 months of the driest conditions ever recorded, California’s Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a statewide drought emergency this past Friday.

As atmospheric high pressure continued its relentless hold on much of the American west, what authorities feared most began to materialize in the form of a wildfire in the San Gabriel mountains near the town of Glendora.

The fire, believed to have been started by an illegal campfire, was only 30 % contained as of Friday, and had scorched an estimated 1,700 acres.

Fanned by dry, gusty winds, the fire began Thursday, spreading rapidly to destroy at least five homes and resulting in injuries to three, including two fire fighters.

Evacuations were ordered for about 1,000 homes, but some were allowed to return later.

California's drought situation has become extreme, with 2013 officially the driest year on record in Los Angeles. If this trend continues, this month will be the driest January on record also. In his declaration, the governor called for voluntary "20% conservation of our water use" statewide.

California’s high Sierra, normally mantled in a deep snowpack is only at 20% of normal levels.

Water reserves in California are below record low levels. Reservoirs and waterways are reporting "significantly reduced" water.

Weather maps and models continue to paint the same picture: strong, stubborn, persistent high pressure surface and aloft along and off the U.S. West coast. This blocking pattern has been in place since November and continues to shunt the eastern Pacific storm track far to the north of southern and central California. While storms have brought significant moisture to the Pacific Northwest this season, much of the activity has remained far to the north of central and southern California. The so – called pattern of “inside sliders” has caused weather disturbances to drop south and east of California, with only meager precipitation brushing some higher elevations of the central high Sierra. What had appeared hopeful in terms of major weather changes several times recently has failed to materialize.

Worse yet, latest forecast models continue to suggest more of the same. Deep low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska, and the resultant ridging along and off the west coast is likely to rebuild high pressure across the U.S western interior. More dry offhsore Santa Ana winds are likely again by this Thursday, January 23 across much of the state.

Not only is Los Angeles experiencing severe drought, these conditions are affecting as much as 75% of the entire Golden state.

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