First California county is fully out of drought

Highway 101 stretches over the Klamath River in Klamath (Del Norte County) last March. The county is now almost fully out of drought.

Highway 101 stretches over the Klamath River in Klamath (Del Norte County) last March. The county is now almost fully out of drought.

Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

It’s been a long, brutal drought — but one California county is finally out of it, according to a map released Thursday.

Del Norte County, home to 28,000 people in the far northwest corner of the state, has no signs of drought over 90% of its territory, according to the map. The remaining 10% is considered “abnormally dry” — the stage that can precede a drought designation, or indicate that the land is emerging from drought but not yet back to normal.

The small, rural county along the Oregon border is characterized by coastal mountains and plentiful rivers and streams, with fishing, timber, agriculture and tourism dominating the economy. It hosts the popular Redwood National and State Parks — parts of which remain closed because of the recent storms.

The state as a whole continues to show improvement. Reservoir levels have jumped considerably. It is fully out of the worst two stages of drought, and now just 43% of California is considered to be in “severe drought” — whereas three months ago, 92% of the state was in “severe drought” or worse.

The northeast corner of the state, and also portions of Southern California, from Merced County to San Bernardino County, are in severe drought.

More Information

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that "abnormally dry" is not a formal drought designation - it's the stage that precedes (or postcedes) it. Thus, none of Del Norte County is now formally in drought.

Most of the Bay Area is in the “moderate drought” stage — one step up from “abnormally dry.”

But over the course of the spring, most of the Bay Area is expected to come out of drought, though parts of it could stay in the “abnormally dry” stage, according to projections released Thursday by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center.

The National Weather Service’s Bay Area office said Thursday that it is “starting to see some signals for another wet pattern going into February,” which could reopen the storm door — though details remain unclear this far out.

Other parts of Northern California are also expected to see their drought classification ease in the coming months, even as the drought is expected to persist most strongly in Southern California.

California received 300% of its normal precipitation in the two weeks leading up to the release of the drought map, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Some of that precipitation has come down as snow — epic amounts of it. Snowpack across the Sierra Nevada is at 245% of normal for this time of year — and government weather experts say that an astonishing 15 feet of snow may have fallen in the highest parts of the range over a three-week stretch.

The weekly drought maps are compiled by a team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s National Drought Mitigation Center, working in conjunction with federal agencies. They are drawn by experts at the mitigation center, NOAA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who rely both on hard data and input from local observers from around the country.

The maps use data available Tuesday morning — so they do not take account of the final stretch of rain Wednesday night.

After weeks of storm after storm, California is looking at an extended stretch of clear weather that should allow the saturated ground to dry out.

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Kurtis Alexander contributed to this report.

Kate Galbraith is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @kategalbraith