What's the broader impact of California's storms?

STORY: It’s been an exceptionally wet winter in California… with at least a dozen so-called atmospheric rivers battering the state since December.

They’ve wreaked havoc… causing flooding… and landslides.

"It just kind of sounded like an earthquake..."

California has been slammed with nearly 150% of average rainfall so far this season, said the state's water department.

So, what is all that water doing to the state?

Atmospheric rivers are storms like rivers in the sky that can dump massive amounts of rain and snow.

They can carry up to 15 times the volume of the Mississippi River… according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The state is mostly drought free for the first time since 2020, according to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln monitor.

But in the big picture - it’s still dry.

Just a few months ago, large parts of the state were in “extreme” or “exceptional drought.”

The period from 2000 to 2021 was the region’s driest in 12 centuries, according to one study.

And climate change is expected to only make it warmer… and drier.

The rain is causing extra growth of grass and scrub - but that could dry out by summer and leave a thicker fuel bed for wildfires, said one fire official.

On the other hand, another says larger shrubs and trees hold in more moisture, making them less prone to burning as quickly.

But there’s another problem - mudslides.

"For this to happen it's probably from all that rain that we got."

The bare land around burn scars can become susceptible to them with heavy rain.

Right now, a lot of stormwater runoff goes into the sea.

In the last century, California wasn’t thinking a lot about recharging underground aquifers.

It built infrastructure to send water from north to south for irrigation, human consumption and flood prevention.

It’s now trying to change tack.

A strategy released last year calls for storing up to 4 million acre-feet of water — or enough for 8 million households — mostly in the ground.

The overused Colorado River received comparatively little rainfall from the atmospheric rivers.

The river’s long-term prognosis remains dire.

Still, that said - the snow has led to a small reprieve for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

They’re the country’s two biggest reservoirs and are both fed by the Colorado river.

All the snow has prevented them from falling to “dead pool” levels - where they can’t produce power or deliver water downstream.