A drenching rain and hefty snowfall are forecast for the central San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra respectively on Friday and into Saturday as a new storm arrives in time for the Christmas weekend.
Areas of Merced County were dealing with rain at 4 a.m. Friday. As of 8 a.m., the showers were gradually moving east and south into northwest Fresno County. National Weather Service meteorologist Cindy Bean, who is in the Hanford office, said rain will start in earnest by 10 a.m. Friday.
The National Weather Service office in Hanford says continued heavy rain is forecast into Saturday morning, turning to showers in the afternoon before ending Saturday night.
As much as an inch of rain overall could fall in Fresno. So far this rain year, Fresno has received 4.08 inches of rain, well ahead of the average of 2.78 inches.
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In the Sierra, a winter storm warning has been issued from Yosemite National Park to the Tulare County mountains. The weather service forecasts 2 to 3 feet of new snow at elevations above 6,000 feet, with 8 to 16 inches expected above 4,000 feet, and several inches at the 4,000-foot elevation.
The snow level will lower to near 2,500 feet by Saturday morning as the coldest air moves into the area, the weather service said.
“This will be a banner storm for heavy snow in the Sierra with up to 3 feet possible in the highest elevations,” the weather service said.
Chances of rain after that time will increase to 90 percent. After 4 p.m., a 100 percent chance of rain is predicted for the Valley. Snow will fall above 4,000 feet in the mountains.
Western areas of the Valley could see about a quarter to half an inch of rain by the time the showers come to an end late Saturday. The Valley’s eastside will see about half an inch of rain, Bean said.
The snow comes when many people will be traveling for Christmas, and the weather service notes it will be a challenge to get over the Grapevine on Interstate 5 (elevation 4,144 feet at Tejon Pass), as well as Tehachapi Pass on Highway 58 (elevation 4,064) and Walker Pass on Highway 178 (elevation 5,250). Motorists should have chains in case they are required.
“The heavy snow will make many roads impassable and may produce widespread power outages due to the weight of snow on tree limbs and power lines,” the weather service noted of travel in the mountains. “Strong winds will lead to blowing snow, reduced visibility and additional power outages.”
Fresno’s high temperature Friday is forecast in the mid-50s with the overnight low in the 40s. Saturday and Sunday’s high temperatures are expected to be near 50 degrees, with lows both nights in the 30s.
Shaver Lake will enjoy a white Christmas with fresh snow. High temperatures in the mountain town for Friday through Christmas Day are to be in the 30s, with lows in the 20s.
Christmas Day should be dry and sunny, and no storms are forecast through next Wednesday. Night and morning dense fog returns Monday and continues into midweek.