The leading edge of what is expected to be a series of winter storms arrived in the central San Joaquin Valley early Tuesday, causing mostly minor flooding around the region, dropping snow in the Sierra and giving the region a good soak.
More rain is on the way Wednesday, along with cooler temperatures and wind. The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday for an area stretching from Madera to Coalinga. In Fresno as much as half an inch of rain is possible, the weather service said.
Valley rain totals (24 hours through 4 a.m. Wednesday) Fresno .61 Merced .49 Madera .44 Visalia .24 Hanford .23
On Tuesday, heavy storm clouds dumped more than half an inch of rain on several central San Joaquin Valley cities, the weather service reported.
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As of 4 a.m. Wednesday, Fresno recorded 0.61 inches, Clovis 0.75, Madera 0.44 and Merced 0.49. Hanford and Visalia each measured about a quarter of an inch.
Snowfall totals were not available from the weather service because snow still was falling in much of the Sierra Nevada. China Peak Ski Resort reported 10 inches. Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite said it received at least a foot.
Jim Dudley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, said reports of heavy rain in the foothills prompted the weather service to issue a flood advisory Tuesday evening. By 7 p.m., the advisory had expired as the rain tapered off.
Dudley said forecasters had seen some reports of a possible funnel cloud near Caruthers, but he couldn’t confirm them.
“We didn’t notice anything ourselves, but it doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything there. Funnel clouds happen several times during the winter,” he said.
In Yosemite National Park, Wawona Road was closed Tuesday night near Badger Pass after a commercial tour bus drove off the roadway. One of the 54 passengers was hurt when it veered off the snowy road around 4 p.m. That person had minor injuries but did not accept medical treatment.
The road was expected to be closed from the Highway 41/Wawona changeover to just below Yosemite Valley for a few hours while heavy-duty tow trucks worked to get the bus, which was bound for Los Angeles, out of the area. Visitors to Badger Pass were allowed to exit the park using Wawona Road.
In the Valley, roadway flooding was reported on roads in and near Fresno and Visalia, and along Highway 41 at Highway 145 in Madera County, according to the California Highway Patrol dispatch log. Along southbound Interstate 5 near Lebec Road in the Grapevine, the CHP reported rocks in the roadway Tuesday afternoon.
In the foothills, chain controls were in place on most mountain highways because of snow. Near Fish Camp along Highway 41, vehicles were reported getting stuck in the snow, the CHP said.
Around the Valley, workers on Monday prepared for the storms by making sandbags available to residents and pumping water through the local basin systems, but the storms were expected to drop large amounts of rain over a long period instead of brief, strong showers that frequently cause flooding.
With Tuesday’s storm, Fresno’s rainfall tally reached 5.67 inches, well ahead of the seasonal average for this time of year of 3.83 inches.
Fresno’s daytime high reached 55 Tuesday, but is expected to hover more in the low 50s through at least Thursday, the weather service said.
On Wednesday into Thursday, a second, slightly colder storm will bring between 0.3 to 0.6 inches to the Valley and as much as 1.25 inches to the foothills. Two more weaker systems could bring additional rain Friday and Saturday, the weather service said.
The first in the line of storms also drenched the desert Southwest on Tuesday and was aiming for the Gulf Coast.
Flash flooding and flows of mud and debris were a concern, especially in places left barren by last year’s wildfires. Residents of the Silverado Canyon burn area in Orange County and the Solimar burn area in Ventura County were urged to consider evacuating.
In Orange County, a homeless man in his 40s was swept off his feet by swift waters and washed nearly a mile down Brea Creek in Buena Park before he pulled himself out, county fire Capt. Steve Concialdi said. The man was treated at a hospital for scraped feet and arms.
Rocks fell on the roadway through Malibu Canyon, damaging four vehicles and clogging a heavily traveled commuter route through the steep Santa Monica Mountains, and Los Angeles police were rousting the homeless from normally dry riverbeds.
Do-it-yourself flood protection
Sand and sandbags are available 24 hours a day to people living in unincorporated areas of Fresno County at the following work yards. Residents need to take their own shovels to do the filling:
▪ Biola, Area 4 Road Yard, 12855 W. G St.
▪ Fresno-Clovis area, Area 7 Road Yard, 9400 N. Matus Ave.
▪ Sanger, Area 8 Road Yard, 9525 E. Olive Ave.
Clovis residents can fill sandbags at the City Corporation Yard, 155 N. Sunnyside Ave.