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NOAA: Winter rains could ease drought's grip

File: Raindrops are seen on a vehicle's window in Arcadia on Dec. 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking Southern California.
File: Raindrops are seen on a vehicle's window in Arcadia on Dec. 2, 2014, amid a steady and sometimes heavy rainfall soaking Southern California.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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Good news for California. Federal meteorologists predict winter rains should loosen the grip of the state's historic drought by spring.

That's not to say a wet winter will completely reverse the impacts of California's historic four-year dry spell.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said drought conditions for most of the state should  "remain but improve" by the end of March.

Some stretches of San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties could even be completely free from drought -- though that's mostly because they're typically so dry to begin with.

The reason for all this optimism: NOAA scientists have increased the chances for above-average rain statewide, particularly Northern California.

Nearly the entire length of the Sierra Nevada mountains have at least a 40 percent chance of higher than normal precipitation this winter. But that same area is also likely to see above average temperatures. That could mean more rain in areas vital for the state's water-storing snowpack.

In a typical year, California gets up a third of its water from the gradually melting Sierra snowpack.