Though nearly 2 feet of snow fell in parts of the Sierra Nevada in Northern California this week, a snow survey there on Thursday found the snow water equivalent was just 12 percent of normal for this time of winter. The water in the northern and central Sierra snowpack provides about a third of California's water supply. Satellite photos from space show the tops of the towering peaks as brown instead of white.
Elsewhere, the weak cold weather system provided a few sprinkles of rain, but it amounted to only a few hundredths of an inch and "the chances of tipping any rain buckets is much closer to zero," a National Weather Service forecast said. The forecast for Friday and Saturday called for sunny skies with a chance of light rain on Sunday.
"Make no mistake, this drought is a big wakeup call," Gov. Jerry Brown said on Thursday before meeting with local water district officials in downtown Los Angeles. "Hopefully it's going to rain. If it doesn't, we're going to have to act in a very strenuous way in every part of the state to get through."
"Every day this drought goes on, we're going to have to tighten the screws on what people are doing," Brown said.
Brown declared a state drought emergency earlier this month and called on Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent.
On Thursday, he offered some practical advice, including avoiding long solo showers and cutting down on toilet flushing.
State climatologist Michael Anderson said only 1.53 inches of rain were recorded from October through December, the lowest aggregate total in records dating back to 1895.
Officials say 2013 was also the state's driest calendar year since records started being kept.
Southern California has been stockpiling water to deal with potential shortages but some places in the state are struggling.
State officials have said that 17 rural communities are in danger of a severe water shortage within four months. Wells are running dry or reservoirs are nearly empty in some communities. Others have long-running problems that predate the drought.