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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bone dry March to carry over

April due to bring same parched conditions; Lake Shasta still low

March 2008 will leave a warren of dust bunnies in the north state weather annals.

Last month was the driest March in and around the far northern Sacramento Valley since 1956, Western Regional Climate Center figures show. Even less rain fell this March than last, which had been the fourth-driest on record.

There's scant hope for an "amazing April" that will scrub away the red-ridged bathtub ring around Lake Shasta, longer-range forecasts show. Forecasters say the same pattern that's parched the West and flooded the Midwest looks like it will stay locked in at least through mid-month.

The lake stood at 1,007 feet above sea level, or 60 feet below the dam's crest on Monday. The water rose 16 feet during the month even though Shasta Dam recorded only 0.28 inches of rain -- a mere 3 percent of the 8.91 inches falling at the dam during a typical March.

The lake's been collecting about twice as much water as it's been letting out, Corn said. So the lake's been adding about a half-foot a day, she said.

The dam had soaked up 45.28 inches of rain since July 1, thanks mainly to a tempestuous January and a reasonably wet February. Only 37 inches -- about half the season normal -- fell during the entire 2006-2007 season, Corn said.

The lake is nearly 40 feet lower than this time last year, state Department of Water Resources figures show. Obligations to downstream water users drew down the water through the warm season last year. Dam operators will face those obligations again this summer, although farmers and cities could see smaller deliveries if storage winds up drastically lower, said Corn.

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