Thunderstorms on Thursday evening brought frequent lightning and torrential rainfall along Interstate 5 on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Doppler radar indicated rain was falling at rates ranging from 0.25 inches hourly to as much as 4.5 inches in heavier spots, as the storms traveled from Taft in Kern County to Los Banos in Merced County, said Cindy Bean, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford. The rain brought localized flooding to the area as the storms moved north at 25 mph.
A severe thunderstorm brought quarter-sized hail to the Los Banos area, while pea-sized hail was seen near Lemoore, the weather service said.
Firebaugh farmer Joe Del Bosque reported that more than 1 inch fell on his ranch in minutes, flooding an orchard.
As the thunderstorms churned, winds gusted 30 to 35 mph as they flowed out and were expected to affect Hanford and Fresno, Bean said. New storm cells could form from the winds as they provide lift to the moisture in the atmosphere. The thunderstorm bands were rotating along a low pressure system that was centered off the Pacific coast and would continue to affect the Valley hours after nightfall.
Utility crews were sent out across the west side to fix multiple power outages, including one in the Kettleman City area that affected nearly 600 customers, the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said.
The California Highway Patrol reported roadway flooding in the area around Nees Avenue and Pole Line Road, just east of Interstate 5, in western Fresno County. A big rig driver told the CHP around 6:53 p.m. that the flooding has a current and could push cars into the nearby California Aqueduct.
Near the Romero Visitor Center at the San Luis Reservoir, a vehicle was hit by lightning and several vehicles were in standing water at the recreation area, according to the CHP dispatch log.
Along I-5 between highways 145 and 198, there were multiple reports of power poles catching fire, according the CHP dispatch log. Roadway flooding, along with mud, was reported along Highway 33 between Harlan and Clarkson avenues.
With widespread clouds and storms across the Valley, Fresno’s high temperature reached 71, and Hanford saw 73 degrees Thursday, Bean said.
Thunderstorms and showers could form again Friday as the low pressure moves inland, Bean said. The threat would be more widespread and could include the east side of the Valley. Temperatures in Fresno were expected to reach 70 degrees, while Hanford could get 72.
The pattern continues through Saturday as the low pressure system eventually moves inland. Fresno could see 74, and Hanford could reach 75.
Rain totals as of 9:30 a.m. Friday:
Fresno Yosemite International: .21
North Clovis: .51
North Visalia: .53
Lemoore Naval Air Station: .43
Los Banos: 1.63
Yosemite Valley: .22
Grant Grove: .08
Shaver Lake: .01
North Fork: .55
Oakhurst sheriff’s substation: .23
Bass Lake: .21
Source: National Weather Service