California Today: California Today: Hot Winter Means Snowpack Is Far Below Normal

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Snow partially covered the Sierra Nevada in central California in 2016.

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Henry Fountain/The New York Times

Good morning.

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The torrential rains that ripped through the state earlier this year and created the destructive and deadly mudslides in Montecito may make California’s drought seem like ancient history.

But much of California has, in reality, suffered through an unusually hot — and somewhat dry — winter.

A heat wave baked Southern California this week, breaking temperature records across the region. And officials say it has been warm in Northern California, too, causing much of the area’s precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow.

Even so, it hasn’t rained nearly as much as the previous year, which was extraordinarily wet. According to one important index, the northern Sierra Nevada has gotten only about 20 inches of rain since Oct. 1 — 70 percent of average for this time of year.

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The state’s snowpack is faring even worse. State data says that the amount of water held in the snow right now is only about 27 percent of normal. A state water official manually measured the snowpack at one location Thursday morning, and found only 13.6 inches of snow on the ground; that snow had 2.6 inches of water content in it, which officials say is just 14 percent of what is considered average for early February.

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The snowpack is particularly important to California’s drought picture because when the snow melts, the water runs off and refills the state’s reservoirs. (The snowpack provides roughly a third of the state’s overall water supply.)

But because of last winter’s record-setting rains, California’s reservoirs are still relatively full. As of Thursday, officials said state reservoirs were holding more water than normal for this time of year — about 105 percent of what is considered average for the end of January.

So although the hot weather and lack of snow may be of “some concern,” Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources, said “it’s way too soon to be alarmed,” about the possibility of another drought.

“There’s still a lot of winter left,” said Frank Gehrke, the chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, after Thursday’s measurement.

Noting that California’s weather is “highly variable,” he added, “anything can happen.”

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California Online

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

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Police officers closed off a street where a shooting occurred at a middle school in Los Angeles on Thursday.

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Amanda Lee Myers/Associated Press

• Multiple students were shot at Salvador Castro Middle School in Los Angeles on Thursday. The shooting was one of at least a dozen on campuses since 2018 began. [The Los Angeles Times]

• Activists are split over an effort to remove the judge whose sentencing in the Brock Turner Stanford sex assault case was criticized as too lenient. [The New York Times]

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• The Trump administration will consider altering a conservation plan that protected millions of acres of California desert. The change could boost energy development in the area, including renewables. [KPCC]

• Special interest groups spent a record $339 million lobbying the state of California in 2017, a number fueled by oil and gas companies seeking to influence the conversation around cap-and-trade. The top spenders were Chevron and the Western States Petroleum Association. [The Los Angeles Times]

• For decades, mystery surrounded the death of the actress Natalie Wood. New witnesses have emerged, prompting investigators to name Robert Wagner, her former husband, a “person of interest” in the case. [Associated Press]

Homelessness surged 75 percent in six years. Here’s why. [The Los Angeles Times]

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The Los Angeles skyline over the streets of the city’s Skid Row.

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Monica Almeida/The New York Times

• California is collecting so much money that it won’t be able to save it all. Lawmakers are trying to figure out what to do with it. (A tax rebate is a possibility — but not a likely one.) [The Sacramento Bee]

• In a sign of changing times, the number of men who took paid family leave doubled between 2009 and 2017. The state is one of only a few to offer this option to both men and women. [The Sacramento Bee]

• A Democrat says that to meet the state’s climate goals, California needs to weaken one of its major environmental laws. State Assemblyman Tim Grayson has introduced a law that would make it more difficult under the California Environmental Quality Act to halt construction of roads and transit. He says the law stymies transportation projects needed to reduce cars on the road. [The Los Angeles Times]

• Compton gave the world “The Chronic” — but the sale of pot there remains illegal. [The Los Angeles Times]

• San Francisco’s is struggling to explain poverty amid opulence to visitors. “Seeing homeless men in wheelchairs without shoes in the winter, women with infants on the streets, young men and women on the streets doing drugs, it was painful,” wrote one tourist. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

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The East Bay Times won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of a deadly fire at the Ghost Ship, an artists’ space in Oakland.

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Jim Wilson/The New York Times

• Layoffs are expected at the East Bay Times next week, a gut-punch at a paper already weakened by staff losses. Last year, after the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the deadly Ghost Ship fire, it lost 20 staff positions. [East Bay Express]

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• Check out those pistols and heels. 25 pictures from L.A.’s criminal past. [Buzzfeed]

And Finally …

When gunfire erupted at a middle school in Los Angeles on Thursday, the young people who witnessed the violence joined the ranks of hundreds of other children and teenagers caught up in America’s school shootings.

Some of them will hold on to those memories for a lifetime.

Take it from Melissa Strassner, who was a student at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, when two classmates opened fire, turning her campus into a war zone.

It took her years to get to a stable place, she said, but she went on to study education with a focus on neurological development. She recently spoke with The New York Times, offering advice for the survivors of school shootings. “There are some very real ways that trauma can actually arrest brain development,” she said. “You can actually be frozen in your trauma. And that’s what you’re overcoming the first few days, first few months, first few years after something like this.”

She added: “You’re never going to be the person you were the day before the shooting, you just aren’t. You have to mourn the loss of that person, you have to mourn the loss of what you thought your life was, and what you hoped your life would be. It’s not that anymore. It includes this. It includes the pain.”

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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