Neighbors jump to help stranded motorists in flooded northeast Fresno
North Fresno was hit by a heavy downpour Friday that caused street flooding at various locations, including on Alluvial Avenue at Polk and Milburn avenues, as well as on Champlain Drive and Perrin Avenue.
Neighborhoods in northeast Clovis were being inundated by water after a spot storm dumped more than an inch of rain in 30 minutes.
An automated weather station reported 1.11 inches of rain in 30 minutes beginning about 4:15 p.m. A weather station south of Shepherd Avenue, near Minnewawa Avenue, recorded 1.04 inches of rain in 25 minutes beginning at 4:05 p.m.
The deluge pushed water over curbs at the Harlan Ranch and Deauville subdivisions along Shepherd Avenue. Around 6:15 p.m., Clovis police had opened De Wolf Avenue to traffic, but were still waiting on a tow truck to rescue two stuck cars.
Luke Serpa, Clovis’ interim city manager, said City Hall and the city’s corporation yard, about four miles to the southwest, had no rain.
But the storm overwhelmed drains and caused flooding on Shepherd Avenue, Serpa said.
"The drainage system was just overwhelmed out there," said Serpa.
Manhole covers near Nees and Minnewawa avenues were blown into the air by the surge of water, he said.
City crews were evaluating problems caused by the fast-moving, heavy downpour.
A flood warning was issued in the late afternoon for Fresno and Madera counties.
After a shower earlier in the day, a rain gauge at Herndon Avenue and Highway 99 recorded 0.8 inches of rain in a half hour, said Jim Dudley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Hanford.
“A big thunderstorm dropped a bunch of rain in a short time and the storm drains could not handle it,” he said.
Numerous vehicles were stuck in the high water and needed to be towed, Fresno police said.
City spokesman Mark Standriff said the sewer system is equipped to handle a half-inch of rain per hour. But on one street, a city worker reported that floodwater was at least a foot high.
The cell that passed over north Fresno “significantly overloaded the flood system,” Standriff said.
The city began pumping water from streets to nearby ponding basins, he said, and the street flooding was expected to abate slowly. All members of the city’s storm crew were out working on Friday.
Kevin Manning, a resident of the northwest Fresno neighborhood, was driving by when he saw the cars stuck in the road. He and his son returned with a tow strap and ended up bailing out six cars, including a mail truck, in about an hour and a half. They went surfing in the streets shortly after.
Bands of heavy rain swept across the Valley, soaking Madera, north Fresno and Visalia early Friday afternoon. At 1:40 p.m., the National Weather Service radar was tracking a strong thunderstorm 13 miles north of Madera, moving northeast. Hail, lightning and high winds were possible.
The National Weather Service in Hanford issued a flash flood warning for Mariposa County and a winter storm warning for the Sierra from Yosemite to Kings Canyon.
The California Highway Patrol traffic incident website noted flooding in the Mariposa area at Paso Pass Road/Stumpfield Mountain Road, Indian Peak Road/Hirsh Road, Italian Creek Road, and in Madera County on Avenue 9/Childrens Boulevard.
The rainfall was part of an advancing cold front from a Pacific system.
Thunderstorms were in the forecast for Fresno until 8 p.m. Friday. The weather service predicted mostly dry weather for Saturday and again on Super Bowl Sunday.
Another front will move through Sunday night, bringing more rain to the Valley and snow to the mountains through Monday. Some showers will linger into Tuesday.