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Before and after aerial images show dramatic impact of rain on SLO County reservoirs

Before and after photos of Lake Nacimiento show drastic changes in water levels between March 1, 2017, left, and Aug. 9, 2014.
Before and after photos of Lake Nacimiento show drastic changes in water levels between March 1, 2017, left, and Aug. 9, 2014.

After months of rain, San Luis Obispo County – and the rest of California – appears to be clawing its way out of the five-year drought.

This was the wettest recorded January in the county for the past 20 years, and that’s evident in the swollen reservoirs. In some cases, they are literally overflowing.

And while the Central Coast has enjoyed sunshine for the past couple of weeks, PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey predicts stormy weather could return by Monday.

Here are recent images of the reservoirs as well as images from 2014, for comparison, courtesy of Planet.com.

Lake Nacimiento

Lake Nacimiento stood at 85 percent capacity Friday, according to data from the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. That level is lower than the 96.5 percent the lake had reached recently, but it’s still high. During the severe drought in December 2014, water levels in the lake dropped to 23 percent.

Santa Margarita Lake (Salinas Reservoir)

As of Thursday, Santa Margarita Lake, or Salinas Reservoir, stood at 100.4 percent capacity, according to the San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department. The storms this winter caused the lake to overflow for the first time in six years. Aaron Floyd, deputy director of the San Luis Obispo Utilities Department, told the Tribune that he expects Santa Margarita Lake to remain at or near capacity until at least mid-spring. Previously, water levels in the reservoir dropped to about 20 percent in December 2014.

Lopez Lake

The amount of water in Lopez Lake reached 59 percent capacity Friday, according to the San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department. In December 2014, the rural Arroyo Grande lake was 41.7 percent full.

San Antonio Lake

Water levels at San Antonio Lake, which straddles northern San Luis Obispo and southern Monterey counties, were at 51 percent Friday, according to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. Of the five reservoirs, San Antonio Lake was the most depleted; in December 2014, it was only 4 percent full.

Whale Rock Reservoir

The smallest public reservoir in the county was at 76.4 percent capacity as of Wednesday. The dam provides water to San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly and the California Men’s Colony, according to the city of San Luis Obispo. In December 2014, Whale Rock was at 45.7 percent.

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