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Storms slam California

Much-needed rain causes major problems in the western US state.

Last updated: 02 Mar 2014 09:19
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Residents in Azusa, Southern California, were evacuated in case the rain triggered mudslides. [AFP]

Rain has been pouring across the US state of California over the past few days.

The rain is critically needed in the drought stricken state, but the ferocity of the storm has caused major problems.

Strong winds have caused powercuts in over 1,000 homes and residents along Ridgeview Drive in the Southern California neighbourhood of Azusa were ordered to evacuate their homes on Friday, due to the risk of mudslides.

Although the weather is causing problems in the short term, in the long term it will be beneficial; California has been in the grip of a drought for the past two years, and it’s been steadily getting worse.

A jet stream normally guides storms towards the state, but this winter it has shifted northwards and the vital winter rains have failed to materialise.

The state is now in the worst drought for a century and more than a dozen communities are believed to be at risk of running out of water within a couple of months.

California is a state which has historically suffered water problems, because the rain is far heavier in the north, but the majority of the population lives in the south.

Southern California relies on a network of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants, known as the California State Water Project, for its water supply. This moves water from the water-rich north, and also uses the snow-melt to the quench the thirty of the ever-growing population.

The California State Water Project supplies water to two-thirds of California’s population. 70% of the water goes to urban users and 30% to agriculture.

Agriculture is a huge business in California. According to the US Department of Food and Agriculture, 99% of all almonds and walnuts grown in the US are produced in the state, as are 92% of strawberries and 90% of tomatoes.

To the dismay of the farming community, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials recently announced that it will not be providing Central Valley farmers with any water from the California State Water Project.

This latest influx of water is clearly greatly needed, but it fell too fast. 110 mm of rain has fallen in downtown Los Angeles since the rain started on Wednesday.

This rain will certainly help the current situation, but much more is needed in order to end the drought. Unfortunately it looks like the rain will ease on Sunday, and dry conditions will prevail for the rest of the week.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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