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Water level of California's Lake Oroville spikes by 17 feet in 10 days

By By Brian Lada, Meteorologist
January 26, 2016, 5:21:16 AM EST

The water level of California’s Lake Oroville has jumped by 17 feet in just 10 days as rounds of heavy rain soaked the region.

Lake Oroville, California's second largest water reservoir, is just one of many water reservoirs across California that is starting to experience a rise in water levels due to the wet weather pattern that has dominated across northern California this winter.

According to the Department of Water Resources in California, the water level of the lake has spiked over the past two weeks, but the reservoir is still only at 34 percent of total capacity.

Multiple years of drought have caused the water level of the lake to drop substantially, dropping to around 690 feet near the record low set in 1977. The previous record low was 646 feet. This is more than 200 feet lower than Lake Oroville's full capacity.

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Lake Oroville's water level is expected to rise even more over the coming weeks as El Niño helps to send more storms over the region, delivering much needed rain and mountain snow.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist David Samuhel, two more rainstorms will soak northern California into the weekend.

"Rainfall amounts will reach 1 to 3 inches across northern California with a fresh few feet in the Sierra," Samuhel said.

Drier conditions are forecast to move over the region for the start of next week, but beneficial rain is likely to return by the end of the week, delivering several more inches of rain across the northern portion of the Golden State.


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In addition to the rain, the recent storms have also dropped feet of snow of the Sierra Nevada, resulting in a deeper and more expansive snowcover than what was experienced at any point during last winter.

So far, this year’s snowpack is running above normal, averaging 115 percent of normal as of Jan. 20.

Snow in the Sierra is crucial during the summer months when rain is scarce. The warmer weather causes the snow to melt, filling streams that eventually empty into reservoirs such as Lake Oroville.

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The recent spike in water level is just the start of a long journey to refill Lake Oroville and other key reservoirs.

“The reservoirs have a long way to go to return to normal,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said.

“It’s going to take an excessive winter with rain and snowpack to get reservoirs back to normal,” Clark added. "I’m not sure it’s even possible to do in one winter.”


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Brian Lada at Brian.Lada@accuweather.com and follow him on Twitter at @Wxlada. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.

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