UKIAH (CBS SF) — Federal officials upgraded the drought level across a large swath of Mendocino County Thursday, a ray of hope for a region that has been gripped by bone-dry conditions, water use restrictions and dwindling levels in vital reservoirs.

On the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map, much of the county has improved from the extreme to the severe drought category.

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While there was some improvement elsewhere across the Bay Area in the wake of a stormy onslaught since Oct. 1, the scorecard remains daunting. Napa, Solano, Contra Costa and Alameda counties are still locked in an exceptional drought.

The National Weather Service said San Francisco has gotten 8.31 inches of rain from Oct 1-Nov 9 — the second wettest span over those dates since 9.80 inches fell during the Gold Rush days in 1849. It has also been usually cool with an average temperature of 57.5 degrees.

In Mendocino, forecasters said 8.5 inches had fallen in Ukiah with much higher totals elsewhere in the county. The rain fall has breathed new life into the tributaries running into Lake Mendocino, a vital storage basin of drinking water for county residents.

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While still well under its storage limit capacity of 54,877 acre feet, water level has improved significantly. The lake held around 12,800 acre feet, slightly above the November 1977 record low level of 12,081 acre feet, in early October.

On Thursday, it was at an improving 19,467 acre feet.

The grass is greener and the water is flowing across the drought-stricken North Bay after a windfall of rain. Not only are reservoir levels rising in Marin County, with many up 20 feet, the ground is springing back back to life.

“You can see the green grass starting to grow,” said Phillip Dolcini. “This thistle has a good jump on it, too. If you listen, you’ll hear frogs at night. There’s a lot of good things going on.”

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“For the first 12 hours (of rain) there wasn’t any runoff,” he continued speaking of the showers. “The rain was soaking into the ground. Gosh, for the next 12 hours it was running off. The ponds were filling. It was a beautiful sight.”