- Feb 7:
- California Drought: Desperately needed rain, courtesy of "Pineapple Express" slamming into California
- Feb 6:
- Drought doesn't mean doom for your plants
- Rain soaks Bay Area, another storm coming
- California drought: Big rain headed toward Bay Area could double dismal rainfall totals
- Feb 5:
- California drought: House water bill exposes deep partisan divide
- Feb 4:
- Gov. Jerry Brown calls congressional Republican drought bill 'divisive'
- Roadshow: Caltrans watering less as drought continues
- Feb 3:
- North Bay homeowners slash water usage through creative conservation
- California drought: Biggest rainfall of 2014 soaks Bay Area
- Jan 31:
- California drought: State Water Project will deliver no water this summer
- Gov. Brown says flush less as California struggles with drought
- Drought shakes off winter for perilous early spring
- Jan 30:
- Obama pledges support amid California drought
- California wine industry reports robust 2013, but worries loom about drought
- Jan 29:
- Bay Area wakes up to drizzle as light rain appears for first time in more than a month
- Jan 28:
- California drought: 17 communities could run out of water within 60 to 120 days, state says
- Jan 27:
- Water oak trees if needed, but not too much
- Rain expected this week won't put dent in the drought, forecasters say
- Gold prospectors take advantage of California drought
- California drought: Bay Area water districts start asking urban residents to conserve
- Jan 26:
- After decades of payments, EBMUD may finally use its emergency water supply
- Jan 25:
- California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say
- Jan 22:
- Drought: California is a red state, if you're talking weather
- Jan 21:
- California drought: Tips for conserving water
- Jan 20:
- George Skelton: Drought offers an opportunity to consider California water policy
- Jan 18:
- Snow makers rescue big Sierra resorts as drought bakes smaller ones
- Jan 17:
- Brown declares California drought emergency
- California drought: Three more months of dry weather likely, National Weather Service announces
- Jan 14:
- Drought imperils California salmon, steelhead
- California drought: What's causing it?
- Jan 10:
- Despite California drought, chances for water bond are evaporating
- Jan 8:
- Timm Herdt: Learning to adapt to droughts
- Jan 3:
- Barnidge: California droughts aren't nearly as scary as they used to be
- Dec 29:
- California drought deepens as another year's rains stay away
LAS VEGAS -- Federal officials have designated portions of 11 drought-ridden western and central states as primary natural disaster areas, highlighting the financial strain the lack of rain is likely to bring to farmers in those regions.
The announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday included counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California.
The designation means eligible farmers can qualify for low-interest emergency loans from the department.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he and President Barack Obama want to ensure that agriculture remains a bright spot in the nation's economy.
A bicyclist rides in an area that was previously underwater at Lexington Reservoir in Los Gatos Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. The water level is very low due to the ongoing drought. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)
"USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood." he said in statement.
Counties adjacent to those affected also are eligible for assistance.
While storms have dumped rain and snow in the East, droughts are persisting or intensifying in the West, according to officials connected with the U.S. Drought Monitor, an index on which the USDA's declarations are based. A ridge of high pressure is to blame for keeping storms off the Pacific coast and guiding them to the East.
"What we're seeing meteorologically is a blocking pattern that is deflecting all the storms," said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the Lincoln, Neb.-based National Drought Mitigation Center. "There really hasn't been a lot of indication that this pattern is breaking down."
Poor snowpack is threatening regions dependent on major western rivers, and no amount of wet winter weather in the East can ease the pain, officials said.
"Once you cross the Rockies, nothing on the East is going to help you," Fuchs said.