SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb 28 (Reuters) - A large winter storm brought much-needed relief to parched California on Friday, boosting its reservoirs and dropping snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the precipitation won't be enough to counter years of drought, officials said.
California is in its third year of a debilitating drought that may top all records in the most populous U.S. state, where lawmakers on Friday were expected to send a series of drought relief proposals to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. President Barack Obama has also pledged millions in aid.
"Despite these recent storms, it would still have to rain every other day until around May to reach average precipitation totals, and even then we would still be in a drought due to the last two dry years," said Richard Stapler, spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency.
Brown declared a drought emergency last month and has called on state officials to prepare for water shortages and develop solutions for potentially long-term dry weather.
Officials have said that California farmers facing drastic cutbacks in irrigation water are expected to idle half a million acres of cropland this year in a record production loss that could cause billions of dollars in economic damage.
The National Weather Service predicted moderate to heavy rain in Southern and Central California on Friday, slowing by Saturday afternoon, and local officials braced for mudslides in areas where the summer's wildfires left hillsides bare and unprotected by tree roots and bushes.
While the fresh wet weather was welcome, rain and high winds caused road closures and power outages in Southern California and brought enough snow so that tire chains were required for driving on mountain roads near the Nevada border.
In Los Angeles, 14,000 customers were without power by mid-morning, and mass transit users were soaked as high winds turned umbrellas inside out and drove the rain nearly sideways as they waited for buses and light rail trains.
The Accu Weather service reported that more than an inch of rain had fallen on Southern California since the storm moved in on Thursday night, and said two neighborhoods in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains had been evacuated as a precaution in case the wet weather prompted mudslides.