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As California’s Drought Deepens, a Sense of Dread Grows

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NORDEN, Calif. — This winter is so unusual that California cattle ranchers have had to sell portions of their herd for lack of water. Sacramento and other municipalities have imposed severe water restrictions. Wildfires broke out this week in forests that are usually too wet to ignite. Ski resorts that normally open in December remain closed; at on in the Sierra Nevada that is actually open, a bear wandered onto a slope full of skiers last week, apparently refusing to hibernate because of the balmy weather.

On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown made it official: California is in a drought, perhaps one for the record books. The water shortage has Californians trying to deal with problems that usually arise midsummer. With little snow in the forecast, experts warn this drought, after one of the driest years on record last year, could be as disruptive as the severe droughts of the 1970s.

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