Madera County officials were advising residents in the foothills and flood-prone Valley areas to be ready to evacuate as a new Pacific storm with the potential to trigger flash flooding arrived Thursday afternoon.
The heaviest rain was expected to hit Thursday night into Friday morning, with 1.5 to 3 inches of rain possible in the mountains and Sierra foothills, the National Weather Service in Hanford said. Snow levels were expected to start out high – about 8,000 feet – before dropping to about 5,000 feet by Saturday morning.
In the San Joaquin Valley, the storm could drop 0.30 to 1 inch of rain, the weather service said. A flood watch is in place for the foothills from Mariposa to Tulare counties, and in the Sierra Nevada, the weather service said.
The storm that hit the region earlier this week triggered mudslides and rock slides, threatened to rupture a small earthen dam near Oakhurst, and prompted some evacuation orders and advisories. Madera County public works officials said Thursday afternoon that the dam, along Lewis Creek in the Cedar Valley area, was holding up.
The Madera County Sheriff’s Office issued a pre-evacuation warning late Wednesday for an area southwest of Chowchilla due to increased flows down the Brenda Slough. The affected area includes Highway 152 (Avenue 23) south to Avenue 18 1/2 between Robertson Boulevard and Road 16.
In addition, the sheriff’s office said the east side of Church Street and the west side of the Bass Lake Mobile Home Park in North Fork remain under mandatory evacuation orders, and an evacuation advisory is in place in the Cedar Valley area.
Highway 41 just south of the Yosemite National Park entrance was reduced to one-way controlled traffic due to a washout, the state Department of Transportation said.
Meanwhile, the weather service reported the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in water releases from Friant Dam starting Saturday that could cause minor flooding downstream to the Mendota area.
Residents who live near the river should monitor water levels and be prepared for minor flooding, particularly in neighborhoods and golf courses along the river in Fresno and other low-lying areas, the weather service said.
Thursday’s storm is the latest in a string of sodden “Pineapple Express” weather-makers saturating California this winter. Since the rain season began in October, every month so far has been wetter than average for Fresno, with January’s 5.5 inches of rain the third wettest on record.
In addition to wet weather this week, the National Weather Service said overnight lows Wednesday were unseasonably warm, setting records in many Valley locations. Fresno’s nighttime low was 59, breaking the record of 56 set in 2015. Hanford’s overnight low was 56; the previous record was 54, set in 2015, although records there only go back to 1998. In Bakersfield, the overnight low was 55, beating the record of 53 set back in 1963.