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Latest storm gives some relief to farmers

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Almond trees soak up the recent water left behind by a three-day storm that hit the Central Valley last week. Madera County’s agriculture greatly benefitted from the storm, which also provided much needed snow.


Although some in the agriculture industry were upset they had to move some of their citrus harvest back a week or two, many were ecstatic to see the three-day storm last week that pelted Madera County.

More than an inch of rain and up to 10 feet of snow fell in the mountain areas, much to the relief of the farmers.

“There’s no negative of this rain,” said Jay Mahil, president of Creekside Farming Company. “Pretty much, all crops in Madera County are in dormancy except for citrus crops. It’s not too damaging for the citrus, either. It pushes them out for harvest. We have some citrus that we were going to start harvesting next week, but we’re going to get delayed because of the rain. I would rather get delayed and have the rain then be picking and not have the rain. It’s been well waited for. It was a beautiful storm that came through and it packed a punch. Some people weren’t believers, but it delivered. Our prayers were answered.”

Not only was the consistent three-day rain a positive for the farmers, but the past storm helped build the snowpack, which many people took advantage of over the weekend.

“The rain total was great, but the snowpack totals were phenomenal,” Mahil said. “That’s what we have to concentrate on. That snowpack is our water supply for the growing season. Are we happy and content? Not really, but we need more. It was a good late start. It was February and we have a major storm come through. It seems to be the last few years, the big storms are coming later and later in the season. We’re not getting the traditional storms in October and November. It seems like we’re getting storms in late January, February, March and into April as our winter season.”

Mahil said he and farmers were a little nervous in December, especially when the warmer days came. However, there was a period of a week of rain, but it almost seemed like the fall season went right into spring.

“I was getting a little nervous in December,” Mahil said. “It was warming up. The plants in my yard started greening up. It looked like spring and we weren’t going to have a winter. It was a blessing on the rain side and snow side. Californians up and down the state are pretty happy about this.”

One of the benefits of the past storm was that there wan’t too much wind. There was some wind in Northern California and in the day leading up to the rain, but it died down during the storm. However, that didn’t mean some farmers, including Mahil, were subject to damage. Mahil’s Creekside Farming owns more than 8,000 acres of wine grapes, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and citrus.

“Tuesday night before the storm, we had some wind,” Mahil said. “It wasn’t too bad in Madera. As you got further north, there was a lot of wind. Modesto north, there was quite a bit of wind with up to 40 mile gusts. In the Yuba City and Chico area, there were 60 mile gusts. We have properties in the Lodi area and we had 40 mile per hour winds in that area and we had some tree loss. Madera wasn’t too bad. It blew a little, but it didn’t do too much damage. There was some tree damage in the northern area.”

Over the years, Mahil has become quite adept at reading the weather forecasts and predicting what will come. He was happy that all the projections of the past storm came true, dropping much needed rain to the region.

“We watch the weather daily,” he said. “We have to plan around it. It’s part of our routine. When I have my cup of coffee in the morning, I check the weather about what it’s looking like.”

The rain is not done. According to some forecasts. rain will fall Tuesday into Wednesday night, but it won’t be near as much as last week’s storm was.

“It’s not as big, but we’ll take it,” Mahil said. “They are talking about scattered showers early in the week. It will be good with whatever we get out of it. This storm, it wasn’t heavy downpour, but consistent rain for three days. It was just good soaking rain, which is what we needed. It helped clean some of the salts out of the ground. Everyone was happy about it.”

However, Mahil said he and the farmers still need more rain. The more water, the less stress the farmers will have.

“We need more of the rain,” Mahil said. “Even last year, we had some late season rain, but our average was below. We’re still below average for this year. We need more for more storage. It’s still pretty tough in the farming world when it comes to water concerns. It’s a never-ending battle.”


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