FILE – This Feb. 5, 2019 file photo provided by the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area shows workers walking through snow during a winter storm in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. In just a matter of weeks, a very wet winter has greatly reduced drought conditions in California as a series of storms coated mountains with heavy blankets of snow and unleashed drenching rains. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 that about a third of the state has no significant dryness and only about 10 percent of the state falls into categories of drought.(Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain ski area via AP, File)LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a matter of weeks, a very wet winter has greatly reduced drought conditions that have plagued California.A series of storms has coated mountains with blankets of snow and unleashed drenching rains that have even greened up landscapes recently blackened by wildfires.Here are things to know about the suddenly soggy state:_DWINDLING DROUGHT The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday that a large portion of the state including the Sierra Nevada, much of the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area is free of any significant dryness.Heavy rain has also ended most of the moderate drought that stretched from the Central Coast to the southern tier of the state, leaving a lesser condition designated as abnormally dry, according to the monitor.California’s southwestern corner, including all of San Diego County and portions of surrounding counties, remain in moderate drought even though it has received more than the usual amount of rain to date. The monitor said several reservoirs are still at their lowest levels in at least a year, and in one case, as long as three years.A relatively small area of moderate to severe drought persists along the California-Oregon border._BY THE NUMBERSMore than 34 percent of the state now has no abnormal dryness or any of the four levels of drought, which are described as moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional.Slightly more than half the state is considered abnormally dry and just 10.5 percent is either in moderate or extreme drought.On Jan. 1, less than 8 percent of the state had no level of dryness or drought. Slightly more than 75 percent was in moderate, extreme or exceptional drought and the remainder was in the abnormally dry classification._SIERRA SNOWPACK Just before last weekend’s latest round of stormy weather, the California Department of Water Resources conducted its second Sierra snowpack survey of the season and found it was 100 percent of normal, an important reading because it holds about a third of the state’s water supply.Even more snow has fallen since, including staggering amounts at locations such as Mammoth Mountain. Eleven feet (3.3 meters) of snow fell on its 11,053-foot (3,369-meter) summit over four days, bringing the season total to more than 32 feet (9.7 meters), the resort said._THE EMERALD HILLS OF LA Rainfall totals this winter have been impressive.Downtown Los Angeles, for example, has received nearly 13 inches (33 centimeters) of rain since the Oct. 1 start of the „water year.” That’s over 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) more than normal.The result has been an explosion of verdant grasses across the state, including the Los Angeles region where the Mediterranean climate usually expresses itself in shades of khaki and tan.Swaths of bright green have even sprouted amid vast areas burned black by wildfires.The storms have caused burn scars to belch mud and rocks that have blocked streets and highways, but so far have not led to a repeat of the kind of disastrous and deadly debris flows that smashed the community of Montecito last winter._TOO MUCH? Even with the high precipitation totals California has avoided major problems because the storms have been spaced far enough apart and have not been overly intense, said Alex Tardy, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.”We have been mostly fortunate with these big rain events, the atmospheric rivers, where the impact has been relatively localized,” he said.Historically, there have been winters with high precipitation totals that did not cause problems, but soils are saturated and many of the big reservoirs are starting to fill up, he said._WHAT’S NEXT? Even more snow.The National Weather Service said two storms are expected to drop snow on Northern California mountains and higher foothills this coming weekend, producing dangerous driving conditions.Significant snowfall is predicted at elevations down to 2,500 feet (762 meters) and light accumulations as low as 1,000 feet (305 meters).
After five days of drinking melted snow, bundled up in a Jeep buried in feet of snow to protect them from freezing temperatures, Maia Herman-Kitami and Carlos Hernandez couldn’t have been happier to see a group of strangers on snowmobiles.
Their incessant honking of the horn made that clear.
„I just want to say thank you and how grateful both of us are because without them, we wouldn’t be here,” Herman-Kitami told San Francisco ABC station KGO on Tuesday, a day after they were pulled out of the snow by good Samaritans.
The couple had been snow camping on Jan. 30, but decided to further explore California’s Mendocino National Forest the next day. But the weather quickly turned south and the pair’s yellow Jeep Wrangler got stuck in the snow. They tried, and failed, to dig the SUV out.
With no cellphone service, it didn’t take long for the couple to realize they were in big trouble. They started rationing food and stayed inside the vehicle as the temperatures dipped below freezing. The forecast was for over a foot of snow over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
The couple was supposed to return home to San Francisco on Friday night, and their parents went to police to report them missing on Saturday.
The couple started to get desperate by Monday.
„When it was 4 o’clock and nobody was coming, I started getting kind of emotional and I was just like, ‘I want to go home,'” Herman-Kitami told KGO.
Enter Jason Logan and his father-in-law Ron Lovell.
The two had heard the couple was missing in their area and debated going out to search for them. A public plea from Hernandez’s sister was enough to get them on their snowmobiles.
After four hours of searching on Monday, Logan told Redding ABC affiliate KRCRthey were about ready to call it quits. They met up with another group out looking for the couple when moments later, the day of searching finally paid off.
„Sure enough, we come around the turn and there’s a Jeep 300 yards away,” said Logan. „It was just mind-boggling.”
Then Logan’s thoughts turned to reality: Would the pair even have survived the ordeal?
„They started laying on the horn, you saw both doors open and they jumped out each side,” said Logan.
The rescue likely came just in time. The region got hit by a big snowstorm on Tuesday.
„With the weather we had this morning, I’m fairly convinced the Jeep would have been buried by [Tuesday] morning,” said Logan.
CHICAGO (AP) — In a story Feb. 1 about a Chicago woman who spearheaded an effort to help the homeless during dangerously cold weather, The Associated Press misidentified the woman. Her name is Candice Payne, not Cindy Payne.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Woman’s effort puts Chicago homeless in hotels during freeze
Chicago woman organizes effort for homeless people to stay in hotel rooms amid dangerously cold weather, eventually housing about 120 people
CHICAGO (AP) — A good Samaritan spearheaded an effort that eventually housed over 100 homeless people in a hotel amid dangerously cold weather in Chicago.
Candice Payne confirms that she, her husband and a few friends went to a homeless camp late Tuesday as temperatures sank to minus 23 degrees (minus 30.5 Celsius). They worried the city and charities wouldn’t have the resources to help.
She says they persuaded some people to go to the Amber Inn. Payne charged 20 rooms to her credit card at $70 each.
The next evening, the Chicago Police Department had to confiscate nearly 100 propane tanks after one exploded. The tanks had been donated to help warm the camp.
Payne and her friends returned to the camp and posted about their effort on social media, prompting donations of food, clothing and enough money to house about 120 people at the hotel through Saturday night.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — About 700 residents were evacuated from a New Zealand town on Friday as a forest fire threatened the area.
Civil defense authorities decided to evacuate parts of Wakefield on the South Island. Authorities opened up a sports stadium as a welfare center and said they could accommodate people who didn’t have friends or family to stay with elsewhere.
Others in the town of 3,000 were waiting to hear if they would also be evacuated, and many were choosing to leave.
Police and civil defense responders were knocking on the doors of about 250 affected homes to makes sure nobody remained behind.
The wildfire began Tuesday and had spread to about 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) by Friday. It had burned down one house. Authorities believe it was started by sparks from farm equipment.
Other, smaller fires were also flaring up in the dry region, including in the city of Nelson, which is home to about 50,000 people.
Richard Kirby, the group recovery manager for Civil Defence, said it might be four of five days before the fire is contained.
He said the drought-like conditions in the region are causing problems for residents and farmers alike.
„The general feeling is one of consternation. There’s no rain on horizon and it’s very dry,” he said. „The realism is coming through that perhaps the worst can happen: that the rivers go dry and we can’t irrigate, and have severe restrictions on urban water use.”
Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing a hot Southern Hemisphere summer.
Australia sweltered through its hottest month on record in January and there have been wildfires razing the south and flooding in the tropical north. New Zealand’s weather hasn’t been as extreme, although it did experience a heatwave over the last few days of January.
A man rides his motorcycle through an alley strewn with debris and mud in the aftermath of a violent storm in the Rocinha slum, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Rio officials say torrential downpours and strong winds have killed at least five people and left a trail of destruction. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Officials in Rio de Janeiro say torrential downpours and strong winds have killed at least five people and left a trail of destruction.The press office of the Rio de Janeiro fire department announced the death toll Thursday.Rio’s Mayor Marcelo Crivella decreed three days of mourning for the victims.Crivella said: „In two hours the amount of rain that fell on the city was equivalent to the rainfall for the entire month.”He added: „Meteorologists never imagined that the storm would be as violent as it was.”The Rio Operations Center said that strong winds of up to 68 mph (109 kph) knocked down trees and caused heavy flooding in several streets.
The center monitors weather, traffic, trash collection, electricity, water, gas and emergency situations, among other things.
MOSCOW (AP) — Residents of Russia’s Urals and Siberia, where temperatures recently plunged to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (Celsius) have taken to social media to celebrate the cold.
Temperatures in Siberia and the Urals earlier this week plunged to unusual levels even for the cold-resistant Russians.
Hundreds of social media users have been posting photos and videos under the hashtag #dubakchallenge, or „cold challenge,” showing people throwing boiling water into the freezing air and it instantly condensing into an elaborate pattern of ice crystals.
The rare cold spell has subsided since the hashtag took off last week, with temperatures in Siberia’s largest city, Novosibirsk, climbing to a high of minus 27 degrees Centigrade (minus 18 Fahrenheit) on Thursday.
A vigil Thursday night honored four family members killed when a small plane broke apart and burned in midair, crashing in a Southern California neighborhood on Sunday.
Part of the plane debris ignited a house, destroying it and killing four people inside. The Orange County Sheriff identified the victims as Roy Lee Anderson, 85, Dahlia Marlies Leber Anderson, 68, Stacie Norene Leber, 48 and Donald Paul Elliott, 58. The two oldest victims owned the house and were husband and wife, the Los Angeles Times reported, and the other two were family guests.
Relatives of the deceased said they were devastated and asked for privacy in a statement released Wednesday.
„Our family bond is tight and each member lost in this tragedy represents more than just one role within our family,” the statement read. „We lost parents, grandparents, great-parents, spouses, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles. The home lost was a beacon for so many family and friends where many celebrations were held.”
Community members organized a vigil scheduled for Thursday night at a nearby elementary school. Two others inside the house were injured in the fire and the pilot also died.
Authorities previously identified the pilot of the small plane, Antonio Pastini, 75, as a retired Chicago police officer, but Chicago police said they have no records of Pastini working for the department. At the crash site, officials found fake retirement papers and a police badge with the same number as one reported lost in 1978, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
Pastini’s daughter, Julia Ackley, said her father owned a restaurant and regularly flew from his home in Nevada to family in California. Investigators said Pastini was a commercial-grade pilot. Ackley did not comment on the police credentials.
“My father is exactly who he said he was,” Ackley told KABC-TV.
Investigators on Monday collected the plane’s debris strewn across four blocks, planning to transport them to a Phoenix facility for examination. They will also look into Pastini’s medical history, flight experience and maintenance reports, a National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson said.
The Cessna 414A reportedly left the Fullerton Municipal Airport at 1:35 p.m. Sunday, traveling about 10 miles before rapidly descending. Witnesses told investigators the plane’s tail and wing broke off while it burning midair.
A preliminary report is expected sometime next week, the safety board said. The full investigation could take up to two years.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Victims of Yorba Linda plane crash remembered amid continuing investigation