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The forecast for the Valley and Sierra for coming days: Cold and wet

What is an atmospheric river?

Atmospheric rivers have a significant impact the U.S. west coast. Snow, rain and flooding due to the weather phenomenon can cause major damage to property.
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Atmospheric rivers have a significant impact the U.S. west coast. Snow, rain and flooding due to the weather phenomenon can cause major damage to property.

Cold winter storms are going to rule the weather into next week, with the first system having arrived in Fresno County Wednesday afternoon.

The bulk of rain was expected to fall in Fresno late Wednesday afternoon into the evening before turning to showers overnight. Fresh snow was expected in the Sierra above 5,000 feet.

Early Wednesday night, several vehicle crashes were reported by the California Highway Patrol in Fresno and Tulare counties. One report of an accident said it involved at least five vehicles along Highway 99 near Avenue 260 in Tulare County.

There was no immediate information by the CHP about the crash, but a dispatcher said that around 8:30 p.m., officers were responding to the scene. An ambulance was being requested but there was no immediate word on injuries.

Flooding was also a problem for some areas. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said the west and eastbound lanes of West Mt. Whitney Avenue, west of Five Points, had been shut down after heavy rain filled it with water Wednesday night.

At one point, water was spilling into the California Aqueduct as it passed West Mt. Whitney Avenue, said sheriff’s Lt. Joe Smith. Public works crews were called out to the areas as well as CHP for road closure.

Highway 33 south of Avenal was also being considered for closure, according to the CHP, after flooding was causing problems there.

A wind advisory was also posted by the National Weather Service Wednesday for the central San Joaquin Valley, as the storm front was packing 15 to 25 mph winds with gusts up to 40 mph. A similar advisory was also listed for Interstate 5 over the Grapevine, where gusts up to 55 mph were possible.

Pacific Gas and Electric was reporting only small power outages throughout Fresno Wednesday night.

The weather service in Hanford said showers were expected to appear again overnight into Thursday, with a slight chance for thunderstorms due to unstable air.

There is also a winter storm warning through Thursday afternoon for the Sierra from Yosemite National Park to the Tulare-Kern county line.

A second storm is forecast for Friday morning but will quickly move out of the area later that day. There will be a respite from wet weather on Saturday before the third and final storm of the series arrives Sunday. It will be the wettest and coldest storm of the bunch, with the snow level possibly falling as low as 2,000 feet Monday morning.

All told, the weather service says the Valley should receive up to 2 inches of rain through Monday, while the mountains will get several feet of snow.

By Tuesday a drying trend will begin, the weather service says.

High temperatures in Fresno from Thursday through Monday will be in the 50s; overnight lows will be in the 40s.

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