Higher-than-normal rainfall during the past month has dramatically changed Lake Shasta, with the water level of California's largest reservoir rising 60 feet since the end of December.
Gone are vast areas of shoreline that became parking lots and campgrounds as the lake dried up and the water level dropped during the past several years of low rainfall in the North State.
By Monday, the lake was 56% full, an improvement over the 34% recorded Jan. 3. The California Department of Water Resources said the lake was 87% of normal as of Monday, compared to the 57% of normal at the beginning of January.
After three years of drought, "normal" was welcome, said Don Bader, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages several North State dams, including Shasta.
"It was tremendously good news," Bader said. "It puts us right back to normal storage right for this date, which is good. We were way behind on that curve. So now it all depends on what we're going to get in the next four to five weeks for additional rain."
At the beginning of the month, parts of the head tower could still be seen rising above the water level. The head tower was used during construction of Shasta Dam, but the structure was cut off near the base after the dam was completed in the early 1940s.
The remnants of the tower legs emerge when the lake level gets very low.
"When we get about 100 feet down, we start seeing the head tower and that means we're having a bad year," Bader said in 2021. "We don't like seeing that head tower. That's an indication we're not doing well water-wise."
The water level rising in Lake Shasta affects the entire state, as the reservoir's water is distributed to agencies from Redding to Southern California.
The state's drought got so bad last year that many agencies that depend on water from the reservoir received little to none of their allocation. Some North State water districts and cities that provide drinking water received only the minimum required for health and safety.
Large swaths of California have been downgraded to "moderate" drought, but Shasta County and much of the North State still remain in a "severe" drought, according to the Drought Monitor. The North State was still in an "extreme" drought at the start of January.
While January's rains helped relieve the drought, more precipitation is needed over the next few months, Bader said.
The department of water resources measured about 18 inches of rain at Shasta Dam in January, while the National Weather Service recorded 9 inches of rainfall at the Redding Regional Airport. The average precipitation in Redding during January is 5.66 inches, according to the weather service.
No big storms are on the horizon for the rest of the week, with the weather service forecasting a chance of showers Thursday and Friday.
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This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Lake Shasta water level rises 60 feet during January