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Scientists predict a 75 percent chance of average or above-average rain at start of 2015

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SAN FRANCISCO — Federal scientists say there is a 75 percent chance of average or above-average precipitation between January and the end of March for California.

The San Jose Mercury News reports (http://bit.ly/1wtwx2T) that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report on Thursday predicting a wetter than usual outlook during the first three months of the year. It's the first time in five years that such a prediction has been made.

Officials say 98 percent of California is in a severe drought with many parts of the state receiving only about half the rainfall as the historic average.

With three weeks of heavy rains, reservoirs continued to slowly rise across Northern California. On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly map issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies, showed that 32 percent of California is still in "exceptional drought," down from 55 percent last week, the Mercury News reported.

Officials say that even with all the rain, Shasta Lake in the Northern California town of Redding is just 33 percent full now, up from being 23 percent full three weeks ago.

"There have been some healthy rises, but it still has a long, long way to go to recover back to levels that we saw three years ago," Kevin Werner, NOAA's western regional climate services director in Seattle, told the Mercury News.

Still, it's unlikely the historic drought will end this year, according to the National Weather Service.

It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from California's continuing drought, according to an analysis of NASA satellite data released this week.

A little more relief is coming over the next few days. The weather service says more rain is expected in most Bay Area cities this weekend, then it's expected to be dry through Christmas Day.

And with the rains, the Sierra Nevada snowpack was at 50 percent of the historic average on Thursday, up from 24 percent three weeks ago.


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

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