Gusty winds, a funnel cloud and quarter-sized hail descended on the Valley Wednesday as the first of two storms made its way through the region.
Valley residents may see a brief break in the weather today, but it won't last long. Another storm is expected to arrive in force this afternoon.
Wednesday's storm dropped hail along the western edge of Fresno and Kings counties during the afternoon as the storm moved eastward, the National Weather Service reported.
"We got reports of hail of up to one inch in diameter, although most of it was about half an inch," said Carlos Molina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.
A funnel cloud was reported about 2:40 p.m. just southeast of Kingsburg, Molina said. A weather spotter saw it come halfway down and then dissipate.
A meteorologist was checking for possible storm damage in the area, said meteorologist Jeff Barlow in Hanford. As of Wednesday evening, no damage had been found.
Thunderstorms were reported at various points during the afternoon and evening, with wind gusts of 20 to 25 mph.
Heavy rain caused traffic problems for motorists in Tulare County.
Mud covered the southbound lanes of Highway 99 at Betty Drive at Goshen, the California Highway Patrol said. Caltrans workers were called to remove the mud from the highway lanes, said CHP officer Grace Torres. CHP officers directed traffic through the area.
In Visalia, where nearly an inch of rain fell, police reported flooding of some intersections, mainly from heavy rain that poured down about 4 p.m. There were no reports of homes damaged by flooding, Lt. Ed Lynn said.
Although farmers need the added moisture, the timing is not ideal for some growers with recently planted crops, such as processing tomatoes.
"Transplanted tomato plants are pretty tender and if you got hit by hail, it could cut those plants in half," said Mark Borba, a Riverdale-area farmer.
Tim Niswander, Kings County agriculture commissioner, said rain this time of the year could also make some crops, including almonds, strawberries and tree fruit, more susceptible to mold-related problems.
"You are probably going to see people applying fungicides when things dry out," Niswander said. "But overall we should make it through OK."
Patricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, said hail may have damaged cotton and tomato plants, and some cotton farmers may have to replant. Potential damage to stone fruit and citrus won't be known right away, she said.
Nearly an inch of rain fell in Visalia overnight, topping the list of rainfall totals in the Valley. By 5 a.m., Visalia had recorded 0.80 of an inch and Fresno had 0.40, Merced 0.20, Madera, .038 and Porterville 0.51. In the Sierra, Yosemite Valley received 0.73 of an inch, Mariposa, 1.44, Oakhurst, 1.06 and Lodgepole 0.64.
Southern California Edison said about 2,300 customers in Visalia and Tulare were without power Wednesday afternoon. About 300 were in downtown Visalia, said spokesman Daniel Brady. Signal lights at Willis and Main and Willis and Center Street were out. For most of the outages, power was expected to be restored by 6 a.m. today.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reported just a smattering of outages from Fresno to Corcoran with most affecting just one or two individual customers, a company spokeswoman said.
The weather service expects unsettled weather through Friday, with rain and mountain snow, as a new storm system moves into Central California this afternoon. That storm is expected to be cooler and stronger, and the snow level may drop to as low as 4,000 feet.
Travelers going to Southern California Saturday morning are advised to check road conditions before leaving.
Staff writers Barbara Anderson, Lewis Griswold, Jim Guy and Alex Tavlian contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, email@example.com