A powerful Pacific storm drenched a wide area of the San Joaquin Valley on Thursday, flooding neighborhoods in Fresno and Clovis, closing two routes into Yosemite National Park and blanketing the mountains with a winter wonderland of snow.
Thursday’s storm was surprisingly intense at times, and some area residents found themselves paddling kayaks across flooded roadways or grabbing trash collection cans to keep them from floating away. Fresno trash trucks found themselves creating wakes that lapped into customers’ homes.
The storm was expected to give way by Friday to mostly sunny skies and the possibility of dense overnight fog through the weekend before another storm front arrives by the middle of next week.
It has rained nine of the first 12 days of January, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford. The flurry of wet weather continues to affect local roadways.
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A heavy lunchtime downpour caused some temporary flooding around Shields, Clinton, Fowler and Armstrong avenues in east central Fresno. The city received reports of cars stalled at Princeton and Fowler avenues and closed northbound Fowler, between Clinton and Shields, for a few hours. Fowler reopened around 3:20 p.m.
“The flood control system was overloaded because of the intensity of the rain,” said Fresno city spokesman Mark Standriff.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said a funnel cloud was reported in the area of Herndon Avenue and Highway 99 around 4 p.m. Thursday.
The weather also made for a tough time collecting trash in the same area on Thursday. Trucks were “pushing water up and into the houses,” Standriff said. The city will send trucks back out on Friday.
The Clovis Police Department reported heavy flooding on the east side of the city and asked drivers to slow down or avoid the areas along Temperance Avenue, between Bullard and Barstow avenues, on Bullard at Armstrong and Fowler avenues, and in the Harlan Ranch area.
In North Fork, residents of Bass Lake Mobile Home Park and Church Street who were ordered to evacuate because of flooding were allowed back into their homes, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office said. The evacuation warning for those areas and other areas of North Fork remains in place.
But rain in the foothills continued to cause problems for other areas late Thursday afternoon. Debris flows in the Friant, Auberry and Three Rivers areas forced road closures in those areas.
In Yosemite, the Highway 140 (El Portal Road) entrance to the park was closed because of falling rocks, according to the park website. Access to Yosemite Valley is still possible via Wawona Road.
In addition, Big Oak Flat Road is closed temporarily because of plowing operations. Entry into the park requires tire chains, or four-wheel-drive with snow tires. For updates about park conditions, call 209-372-0200.
The snow continued to fall at China Peak around 1:45 p.m., but was starting to let up, according to the ski resort’s snow phone update. Two feet of light powdered snow had fallen in the last 24 hours, the recording said. With temperatures expected to drop “this light stuff will be preserved for days to come,” the resort’s website said.
The chairs are expected to start opening at 9 a.m. Friday through the weekend.
In the Huron area, Highway 269 from Palmer Avenue to 3 miles north of Huron remains closed due to flooding, according to Caltrans. A detour is available.
What’s happening is water channels get clogged with debris, said Cory Burkarth, public information officer for Caltrans. The water backs up and tops the levee. The road floods and mud, silt and debris come down. Once Caltrans is able to rebuild the levee and stop the water, the maintenance staff can begin to clear the road, Burkarth said.
The weather service issued a flash flood warning for an area north of Reedley through the foothills until 4:30 p.m. The flash flood warning for Fresno and Clovis was lifted at 3:45 p.m.
“We will definitely dry out and the weekend looks very dry,” said meteorologist David Spector.
The low temperature is forecast for the mid- to upper 30s, while the high temperature is expected to be in the mid-50s. Rain could return by next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, storm watchers were heartened by how the recent storms are raising the water levels in California lakes and reservoirs.
Staff writers BoNhia Lee and Marc Benjamin contributed to this report.
(As of about 5 p.m. Thursday)
National Weather Service