A tropical Pacific storm brought heavy rains to portions of Fresno and Madera counties Friday and pounded Mariposa County hard enough to flood roadways, unleash mud and rocks and even wash away some roads.
The National Weather Service kept a flood watch in place through Friday afternoon for portions of Fresno, Madera, Mariposa and Merced counties.
Los Banos-area farmer Joe Del Bosque tweeted several videos showing floodwaters spilling out of orchards and crossing roadways on the west side. And the weather service warned shortly after 3 p.m. that radar was tracking heavy downpours extending from Chowchilla to near Mendota.
Firebaugh City Manager Ben Gallegos said water from the San Joaquin River was overflowing into the city’s rodeo grounds and park north of the Avenue 7 entrance to the city. Flooding is not expected to extend beyond the park and rodeo grounds, he said. The last significant flooding incident was in 2011.
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In Friant, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation could look to increase the flow of water being released from the dam. Operations Manager Michael Wolfe said the tentative plan is to increase between 7,000 and 8,000 cubic feet per second Saturday morning and 9,000 cfs Sunday. It was increased from 6,000 to 7,000 cfs Wednesday.
Flooding closed Copper Avenue at Armstrong Avenue, north of Clovis, after water was released from the Big Dry Creek basin northeast of Clovis.
Friday’s storm was expected to give way to diminishing chances of rain and cooler temperatures Saturday, and clearing skies by Sunday. The region will have several days to dry out before another chance of rain late next week, the weather service said.
Much of the most significant rainfall was in the foothills of Madera and Mariposa counties in the 24-hour period ending 4 p.m. Friday.
A weather station near Mariposa recorded 3.42 inches, while El Portal had 2.61 inches. Yosemite Valley had 2.56 inches and Nature’s Point near Bass Lake recorded 2.52 inches. In the Valley, Madera recorded an inch of rain, while Firebaugh had 0.95 inches and Lemoore, 0.66 inches.
In Mariposa County, the California Highway Patrol reported numerous roads were flooded, or had rocks and debris across them. The bridge at Bear Creek and Indian Gulch was flooded, the CHP said.
In Madera County, Highway 41 near the entrance to Yosemite National Park was down to one-way controlled traffic because of a washout, Caltrans said.
Merced County declared a state of emergency Thursday evening because of flooding and issued evacuation warnings at the Merced River Campground Resort in Delhi, officials said. No evacuations were carried out as of Friday afternoon.
This week’s string of storms have brought with them unseasonably warm overnight temperatures. Records were set for overnight lows Thursday night in Fresno (57, beating the previous record for the date of 56 set in 1987), Hanford (also 57, beating the 51 from 2000), Madera (58, beating the 52 in 2015), and Merced (55, topping the 52 in 2015).
The storm that arrived late Thursday was not as heavy as predicted. Between 4 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Friday, the Madera County foothills received between a half-inch and 1 inch of rain. That area has been hit hard by rain and flooding this week.
Madera County sheriff’s Lt. Bill Ward said Friday morning water levels were lower than they were Thursday.
Bass Lake Mobile Home Park in North Fork remains under a mandatory evacuation order. The Brenda Slough and Cedar Valley areas remain under an evacuation advisory. Several condos in Oakhurst were evacuated because of flood damage.
Staff writers Rory Appleton and Marc Benjamin and the Merced Sun-Star contributed to this report.