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How sudden rainstorms can wreak havoc on drought-stricken land




Workers drill for water for a farmer on February 6, 2014 near Bakersfield, California. Now in its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years and possible the worst in the past 500 years. Grasslands that support cattle have dried up, forcing ranchers to feed them expensive supplemental hay to keep them from starving or to sell at least some of their herds, and farmers are struggling with diminishing crop water and whether to plant or to tear out permanent crops which use water year-round like almond trees. About 17 rural communities could run out of drinking water within several weeks and politicians are pushing to undo laws that protect several endangered species.
Workers drill for water for a farmer on February 6, 2014 near Bakersfield, California. Now in its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years and possible the worst in the past 500 years. Grasslands that support cattle have dried up, forcing ranchers to feed them expensive supplemental hay to keep them from starving or to sell at least some of their herds, and farmers are struggling with diminishing crop water and whether to plant or to tear out permanent crops which use water year-round like almond trees. About 17 rural communities could run out of drinking water within several weeks and politicians are pushing to undo laws that protect several endangered species.
David McNew/Getty Images

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It would not be an overstatement to say that folks around town are getting pretty anxious about the rain that's expected this week.

Forecasters say the downpour Southern California could get several inches of rain over the next few days, which is great for water levels. But it's been years since the region has had a soaking like this, and a sudden downpour could cause some problems as well.

RELATED: The downside of Southern California's rain: Debris flows

Here to explain is KPCC's Science Reporter Sanden Totten.