California governor declares drought emergency in 2 counties

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Standing in the dry, cracked bottom of what should have been a more watery Lake Mendocino, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency Wednesday in two Northern California counties in response to arid conditions affecting much of the state and the West Coast.

The declaration is targeted to Mendocino and Sonoma counties, where drought conditions are especially bad, rather than statewide, as some Central Valley farmers and officials had hoped. But Newsom said a broader drought declaration could come as conditions change.

California, which is now in its second year of drought, is bracing for another devastating wildfire season after a winter with little precipitation.

“Oftentimes we overstate the word historic, but this is indeed an historic moment, certainly historic for this particular lake, Mendocino,” Newsom said, standing where 40 feet (12 meters) of lake water was supposed to be. The lake is at about 40% of normal capacity.

About three-quarters of the western United States is in what is called a megadrought