Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Rainy weather didn’t keep Madera High’s Mia Alvarez from trying to gain control of the ball during a soccer match against Buchanan on Tuesday night. This weekend will bring a major storm followed by more rain next week.
An atmospheric river watering Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area today is expected to extend south into our area Sunday, bringing snow, heavy rain and potential flooding to local mountains and foothills.
Atmospheric rivers are fairly narrow regions of moisture that carry precipitation and strong winds across the ocean.
“Its kind of like a firehose when you spray it in a certain direction,” said forecaster Jim Anderson, of the National Weather Service in Hanford. “Depending on where it is pointed, that’s where the rain is going to go. Somebody for sure in California will be getting a lot of rain.”
Local precipitation probably won’t end Sunday either, with rain predicted as likely in Madera from Saturday through Tuesday, and chances of rain through Friday. But Yosemite National Park, the Sierras and the foothills will receive the main force of the storm series. Forecasters expect up to a foot of rain at higher elevations through Monday while the foothills may get 3 to 7 inches.
Forecasters think the warm rain at higher elevations will melt much of the current snow and potentially cause flooding.
“The Merced River is expected to crest at 16.1 feet at Pohono Bridge up in Yosemite,” said Anderson. The flood stage is at 10 feet there So 16.1 is definitely over the flood stage there.”
The Valley floor won’t be unaffected by this.
“With the Merced River, all that water has to come down somewhere,” said Anderson. “With all that coming, we could see some of that overflowing down in the Valley. We’re telling people to keep their eyes open especially if they’re living near the river because it can rise quickly and it doesn’t have to be raining where they’re at.”
The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for the Madera, Mariposa, Fresno and Tulare county foothills from early today until Monday afternoon. There is also a Flood Watch for the Valley.
“The difference between them is with a Flash Flood Watch the water can rise very quickly … (and move) very quickly” due to greater elevation changes than in the Valley, Anderson said.
Already Madera has received a boost in precipitation. Madera Irrigation District reported 3.99 inches of rainfall for this season so far as of midnight Friday. The normal for this point in the year is 4 inches.
As of Thursday, Millerton Lake already held 378,156 acre feet of water — 73 percent of its total capacity and 135 percent its historical average for that date. In response to the coming storm, Friant Dam had been releasing 3,148 cubic feet of Millerton water per second (CFS) Thursday based on sensor data, far more than Tuesday’s flow of 230 CFS, according to the California Data Exchange Center. The discharge apparently increased further Friday.
“We’re releasing 5,000 CFS and I believe it is supposed to stay like that unless conditions change and the storm is bigger than it is supposed to be … We need more storage for the upstream (Millerton Reservoir water) that is being released,” said Kaitlyn Willems, hydrological technician at Bureau of Reclamation at Friant Dam, Friday.
All roads leading into Yosemite Valley were closed at 5 p.m. Friday and will remain so until at least through Sunday, the National Park Services announced. Visitor services will be extremely limited during this weekend’s storm and an assessment of the park’s conditions early Monday morning. The closures were set to protect park visitors and staff.
“The park has experienced significant rainfall over the past month and ground saturation could lead to hazardous conditions along park roadways … There is no anticipated date or time for roads into Yosemite Valley and guest services to reopen,” park officials warned Friday.
Pacific Gas & Electric has also anticipated the storm this week, it claimed Friday. The utility company practices its response to storms and other emergencies through exercises and drills with first responders, and also uses storm outage predict models and automated equipment that “self-heals” the electric grid.
“With storms bearing down on our region, we want our customers to know that PG&E is prepared, that we’re mobilizing resources and that we will work around the clock to restore service to customers,” said Pat Hogan, PG&E’s senior vice president of Electric Transmission and Distribution. “Likewise, we encourage our customers to have a personal or family preparedness plan in place and — above all else — stay safe.”
PG&E advises customers to use battery-operated flashlights, rather than candles, amid power outages to avoid risking fire. Electrical appliance should also be unplugged or turned off to prevent overloading of circuits and possible fires when power returns. They can be turned back on when conditions return to normal. Other tips can be found at www.pge.com/beprepared.
For National Weather Service forecasts for Madera, visit https://goo.gl/tJqnDg or call 584-0312. For 24-hour road and weather conditions for Yosemite National Park, visit www.nps.gov/yose or call (209) 372-0200 and press 1.