Flash-flood warnings, heavy deluges in Sierra punctuate first part of weekend storms

Day one of the “atmospheric river” storms brought a flash-flood watch Saturday to the mountains and foothills in the central San Joaquin Valley, and the threat of more on Sunday.

One of the most dire alerts was issued by the National Weather Service shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday for residents living in Wilsonia, near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.

They were warned to evacuate to higher ground because of an expected downpour that could cause a flash flood. The evacuation warning continued until 3 p.m. Up to three inches of rain had fallen in that area by 2 p.m., the NWS said.

Another imminent flooding alert was issued around 4:30 p.m. for Camp Nelson, Springville and Johnson Dale in Tulare County.

Rock and heavy water affected several mountain highways.

▪ Dirt, rocks and mud covered part of Highway 41 where it intersects Bay Leaf Road a mile north of Oakhurst.

▪ Water also covered a section of Highway 180 at Millwood Road, and a stretch of Highway 198 at Three Rivers in Tulare County was covered by runoff.

Early Saturday evening officials with Sequoia National Park closed the south entrance to Generals Highway at the Foothills Visitor Center due to rock slides and flooding. The roadway will remain closed until further notice. As a result, visitors will not be able to see the big trees until the road reopens. Also off-limits for now are Potwisha Campground, Giant Forest Museum and Lodgepole.

While rainfall in the foothills and mountains was being measured in inches, far less had fallen on the Valley floor. Bill Peterson of the National Weather Service office in Hanford said a half inch had fallen across the Valley by midafternoon Saturday.

Flooding occurred at the intersection of South Henderson road and West Dinuba Avenue near Caruthers, Peterson said.

The flash-flood threat remains through Monday in the Sierra and the foothills of Mariposa, Madera, Fresno and Tulare counties, said the weather service. Four to 12 inches of rain is expected in the mountains and foothills from Saturday through Monday.

Food trucks and sandbags

The wet weather slowed business for food trucks on the corner of Willow and Shepherd avenues in northwest Clovis, according to William Aguillon with Tacos Boys. He said Tako BBQ and Casa de Tamales took rain checks Saturday, as did a few other trucks.

Mike Peterson ate a quesadilla from Tacos Boys under a tarp as the rain picked up at midday. Peterson came out to taste-test the truck’s catering service. “I thought about staying in our pajamas by the fire,” he said.

Danny Torres, who lives in rural Fresno County, went to a public works yard in northeast Fresno to fill sandbags for his chicken coop. It was just one of the sandbag trips Torres has made since Friday to protect his backyard and coop.

“It’s an emergency,” he said as he carried the bags to his van. Torres said he didn’t realize the coop already had flooded, and he worried it would get worse as the day wore on.

Sandbags are available in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties for residents worried about flooding.


The snow level was to rise to 9,000 feet Saturday afternoon as relatively warm air flowed into the region under the influence of the Pineapple Express – the term for a storm whose subtropical origin is near Hawaii.

As a result, snow at lower elevations was to start melting, adding to the flooding worries.

The NWS said the “atmospheric river” directing the storms toward California will shift north for a time on Sunday, giving the central San Joaquin Valley a break from the rain for much of the day.

The respite will be short-lived, however, as a new cold front dives south across the state Sunday evening and brings more rain and snow.

Once Sunday night’s storm leaves the area, clearing will occur on Monday, the NWS said.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan

To report a road issue:

Fresno (city): 559-621-2489

Fresno County: 559-488-3111

Madera (city): 559-675-4200

Madera County: 559-675-7811

Tulare County: 559-624-7000

Kings County: 911

Merced County: 209-385-7601

Kern County: 800-427-7623