Thursday's shower ended record 54 days without rain in Fresno

The Fresno BeeJanuary 30, 2014 

It wasn't a drought-buster, but a Thursday morning storm dumped just over a half inch of rain in Fresno, and was accompanied by a rash of fender benders, power outages and flooded streets.

The rainfall ended a dry spell of more than 50 days, and cleared skies of dust and soot pollution, but left the water-starved region yearning for more. It doesn't appear to be in the cards. The National Weather Service said there is only a 20% chance of showers today and the forecast for next week is a return to dry, warmer-than-normal weather like what occurred for most of January.

Said meteorologist Jim Dudley: "Drought is long-term, and we're behind quite a bit."

As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Fresno had received .53 of an inch from the storm. To the north, Yosemite Valley had 1.26; Merced, .31; Madera, .33; and Mariposa, .88.

Rain totals dropped further south: Hanford, .07, Lemoore Naval Air Station, .06 and Porterville, .16.

The snow fell off and on for a couple hours in Shaver Lake on Thursday morning, said Shaver Lake Coffee & Deli owner Norman Kato. By the afternoon, the white flakes had turned into rain.

"It snowed and came down pretty good," Kato said. "From what I understand it's snowing pretty good at China Peak." That's the ski area north of Shaver on Highway 168.

The snow is a welcome sign for business owners like Kato, who have seen very little this season as a result of the dry, warmer than normal conditions. Normally, the mountain community would be busy this time of year with skiers and visitors heading up to play in the snow.

"We welcome the rain and snow," Kato said. "Both are good."

Back in the Valley, the California Highway Patrol reported a number of collisions during the storm. A big rig that crashed on the southbound Highway 99 transition to eastbound Highway 180 blocked traffic for morning commuters. Another crash just south of Friant Road on southbound Highway 41 also slowed morning traffic. Two cars also careened off the northbound Highway 99 transition to eastbound 180 in separate incidents.

Rain came down so hard at one point during the morning that it overwhelmed the pumps at the Wishon Avenue underpass south of Shields and flooded the street with nearly three feet of water. Several cars were disabled trying to go through the tunnel before city workers were able to close the roadway. One of the last cars through accelerated out of the tunnel, sending a wall of water up on the air.

"The fun's over now," said a city worker as barricades went up.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. recorded a number of outages. About 4,500 customers were affected by the 32 separate events. The largest was in the Lemoore area, where lights went out for about 1,800 customers after a power pole was knocked down. About 1,700 customers lost power in south Fresno, near Cedar and Jensen avenues.

Besides a slight chance for showers today, skies will be partly cloudy in Fresno, with the high expected to be 57 degrees. The overnight low will be in the mid-30s.

Similar highs and lows will remain in place over the weekend under partly cloudy skies. Sunshine returns in abundance on Monday. By the middle of next week, daytime highs will be back in the mid-60s, with no rain forecast, said the National Weather Service.

Live webcam: Tom's Place on Hwy. 395

Staff writers Jim Guy, BoNhia Lee and Hannah Furfaro contributed to this report. It was written by Guy. He can be reached at (559) 441-6339, or @jimguy27 on Twitter.

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