Sonoma County and most of North Coast are now in ‘extreme drought’

The U.S. Drought Monitor update shows 37% of California is now in “extreme drought.”|

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows virtually all of Sonoma County and the North Coast in a state of extreme drought, as March weather continues to be mostly dry.

A quarter to a half-inch of rain may be on the way Sunday and/or Monday, but rainfall has barely topped an inch in Santa Rosa and neighboring cities since Jan. 1.

The rain gauge at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport has collected 1.12 inches this year so far, or just 7% of normal, National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Gass said. A typical year would see 16.91 inches at this point in the year.

Storms in October and December still put rainfall for the Oct. 1-to-Sept. 30 season ahead of last year and the year before, the first two years of what’s now a three-year drought.

But creeks are running lower than they were at this time last year, and the outlook remains grim.

Lake Sonoma is now below 60% of its storage capacity, and Lake Mendocino, at less than 54% of its water supply pool, is dropping toward half. The Russian River is being maintained at critically low flows to hold back as much water in the reservoirs as possible.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a product of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, updates its maps weekly.

As of last week, about a third of Sonoma County along the northwest edge was in “extreme” drought, with the remainder in “severe” drought.

The area of California included in the “extreme” category expanded from 35.22% last week to 37.69% this week, with all of the additions in Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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