The central San Joaquin Valley and neighboring High Sierra enjoyed a brief respite Wednesday from a series of Pacific storms that roared through the region, leaving behind rain-year totals near full-year normals, along with storm damage in some areas.
But a new storm is barreling toward the Valley, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flood watch for much of the region beginning Thursday afternoon. The heaviest rain is expected Thursday night through Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.
Since Monday, the region has recorded some eye-popping rainfall totals: 6.60 inches in Dinkey Creek, 5.39 at Wishon Dam, and 3.91 at Grant Grove. In the flatlands, the totals were less impressive: Friant Dam, 0.60 inches, Madera and Tulare, 0.35, Clovis, 0.24 inches, Huron 0.04.
The rain-year total for Fresno (Oct. 1, 2016, through Tuesday) was 10.53 inches, within an inch of the full rain-year normal of 11.5 inches. Comparable numbers for Madera were 10.15 inches and 12.02; and Merced, 11.28 and 12.5.
On Wednesday, Madera County sheriff’s deputies were keeping a close eye on Willow Creek, where it flowed past the Church Street mobile home park, a day after a drought-busting downpour turned the creek from a trickle that a child could hop across into a respectable-looking river.
For now, it appeared that four homes under evacuation orders were safe. Sgt. Joseph Wilder, in charge of Emergency Services for the sheriff’s office, said the monsoon-like downpour that swelled the creek Tuesday outdid the cloud-buster that struck the same area in January in terms of how fast the water came down. But he said officials were pleased that the level of the creek seemed to be dropping to safe levels.
The nearby Bass Lake mobile home park was also under evacuation, but Wilder said most residents there moved trailers to higher ground. Wilder said officials were uncertain when residents will be able to return to their homes. That will depend upon the surge of Pacific weather fronts battering the state. Wilder said deputies will remain on scene until then to protect the property.
Asked about other areas of the county in jeopardy, Wilder said: “There’s a lot of water everywhere ... there are issues anywhere we have rivers or streams.”
Wilder said another pressing problem facing the county was a mass of debris in the long-dry Fresno River channel, which was being washed toward Oakhurst by the heavy runoff.
The National Weather Service expects rain to return as early as Thursday afternoon, striking with increasing intensity through the evening and continuing into Friday. Saturday is likely to see diminishing showers. Temperatures also will be cool, bringing snow as low as 5,000 feet by Friday.
A flood watch was issued for east-central and west-central San Joaquin Valley, the Sierra Nevada and the foothills from Mariposa to Tulare County from Thursday evening through Friday evening.
Staff writer Jim Guy contributed to this report.