Heavy rains caused flooding throughout much of downtown Fresno on Friday just as workers were clogging streets and highways for the evening commute.
The second wave of this week’s storms also caused flash floods in many areas of western Fresno County and forced the shutdown of the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 in the Grapevine when a mudslide covered the roadway near Fort Tejon Road about 4:45 p.m. The southbound lanes into Los Angeles were not affected.
But a slow-moving storm system making its way inland resulted in sporadic reports of rain – while some areas were getting pounded, others were dry or barely wet.
Southwest and downtown Fresno got hit the heaviest – radar estimates reached upwards of 1.7 inches of rain, said Scott Rowe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford. At Fresno State, 0.46 inches of rain fell.
It was the same with the first wave of the storm Thursday night. The Fresno area got .21 inches of rain from it, and .43 inches fell in Lemoore – but the weather service reported no rainfall for Merced in that storm and only a trace for Visalia.
Rowe said scattered showers will return Saturday afternoon and last through the night. On Sunday, precipitation is forecast only for the Sierra.
Traffic on Highway 99 through downtown and central Fresno ground to a halt at 5:30 p.m. Flooding hit the highway near the Fresno Street on-ramp around 5:45 p.m.
City spokesman Mark Standriff said that all of the city’s storm response teams were out on isolated calls for flooding throughout downtown Fresno as of 6 p.m. Crews had cleared storm drains Friday morning, but they can only withstand up to a half-inch of rain in an hour. Pumps were moving standing water, too.
Anyone who wants to report flooding in Fresno should call 559-621-CITY.
Standriff said the response teams were prepared to move to troublesome areas in north Fresno, especially Friant Road near Woodward Park – but in keeping to its finicky nature, the storm only grazed that part of the city.
At 5:30 p.m., the National Weather Service in Hanford issued a severe thunderstorm warning for most of Fresno. There were no reports of damage from it – just a lot of water-logged people.
The west side of the San Joaquin Valley got hammered both days by heavy rain.
Thursday, Firebaugh-area farmer Joe Del Bosque shot video of a flood of rainwater rushing through his almond orchard. Del Bosque said he estimated 1.15 inches of rain fell in that storm.
Late Friday afternoon, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and the California Highway Patrol were monitoring flooding on Interstate 5 near the Manning Avenue, Derrick Avenue and Highway 269 off-ramps east of Coalinga. Flooding also was reported in the area on Highway 33 and Harlan Avenue.
Stan Silveira, who operates a Tranquillity-area cotton ranch, said he saw a downpour this time of year and similar to Friday’s only one other time – about 30 years ago.
I told my son we could have gone water skiing or boogie boarding.
Tranquillity resident Brad Beene
On Friday, he was returning from Fresno and watched water coming off the road and into a nearby canal faster than he had seen in decades.
“I’ve never seen water like that in my neighborhood,” he said. “There is water all over town … the fields are full of water.”
He estimated about an inch of rain fell.
“It always looks like more because the ground doesn’t have time to soak it up,” he said.
Gary Beene, who lives northwest of Cantua Creek, said 0.11 inches of rain fell there Friday after an inch overnight.
But 11 miles north, Beene’s son, Brad Beene, recorded 1.98 inches of rain at his home in Tranquillity on Friday afternoon.
“I was driving home and I got on James Road (at Manning Avenue) and I had my windshield wipers on as fast as they could go and was going 20 mph because I couldn’t see,” Brad Beene said.
He said rain fell for a couple hours, but by 6:15 p.m. the sun was shining.
The streets in Tranquillity were flooded and Skaggs Street was closed to traffic.
“It was trash day, and I had to go down the street to get my trash cans,” Brad Beene said. “I told my son we could have gone water skiing or boogie boarding.”
Thursday night rain totals
As of 9:30 a.m. Friday (in inches):
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