Nightly News   |  February 08, 2014

Winter Weather Brings Rain to Very Dry West

Snow and rain are hitting western states, but the precipitation isn’t enough to ease the drought-ridden region.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> day now, the pacific northwest is getting slammed by a powerful storm bringing torrential rain and record-setting snow. on the upside, however, is the need for precipitation of course during the history-making drought all the way to the south in california . we get our report tonight from nbc's joe frier.

>> reporter: thirsty for any hint of water, the west coast is finally getting what it needs. but in oregon, the winter weather comes with a price, 600 crashes statewide and a ten-mile interstate backup near salem that stranded hundreds of drivers for hours.

>> i have never seen anything like this.

>> reporter: in portland, a city that rarely sees snow, five inches is already enough to make this the most snowy february in 21 years, other parts of the state have seen a foot or more. in drought-stricken california , rain is hitting much needed locations while the sierra nevada is seeing snow, as skiers flee to higher elevations for the weekend. all of this precipitation carried by something known as the pineapple express , an atmospheric area of moisture that hits the west coast .

>> the pineapple express will help the west coast , but keep in mind we need several of these weather patterns to develop to really help out california .

>> reporter: right now two third thirds of the united states is covering with snow, but for much of the west the drought is not going away. in arizona some ranchers are selling off 20% or more of their herds.

>> we can't feed our cattle year around, hay, it is too costly, we can't do it, we have to sell the cows.

>> reporter: in california , some restaurants are only serving water by request. and wine makers are being careful with what is in their wells.

>> we'll never catch up. but anything will help right now.

>> reporter: more rain and snow are expected this weekend and that could mean more trouble on the roads. but it is a welcome sight for anybody coping with record-dry conditions. here in southern california we've seen some rain the last few days, the ground here still wet from the latest rainfall this morning but it will take months of record rain just to get things back to normal. president obama is scheduled to visit california next week to discuss federal drought