The storm that moved into the central San Joaquin Valley on Sunday afternoon brings threats of river flooding, levee breaks, heavy winds and pelting snow, according to the National Weather Service.
The region enjoyed a brief respite with mostly blue skies Saturday and early Sunday. The storm that rolled in is expected to bring strong winds and the potential for more flooding on roads and rivers. The mountains and foothills will receive the brunt of the storm, with the heaviest snow and rain starting early Monday morning and lasting until early Tuesday.
Cindy Bean, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Hanford, said a flood advisory is in place through Tuesday morning for the Valley from Merced to Fresno and the foothills south to Tulare County. The weather system could bring up to .7 inches of rain in Valley locations and up to 3 inches in some foothill locations.
A winter weather advisory is in place in the Sierra starting at 10 p.m. Sunday through 10 a.m. Tuesday. Some spots in eastern Fresno County above 7,000 feet could receive as much as 40 inches of new snow, said Bean. That amount will almost surely block roads and may cause power outages from snow accumulating on power lines and trees.
The impact tapers heading south; still, locations above 7,000 feet in eastern Tulare County are expected to receive up to 20 inches of snow.
Below the snow line, rain totals up to 4 inches are forecast at 4,000-feet elevation.
Fresno, Madera and the foothills are also under a wind advisory through Monday night. Wind speeds on the Valley floor are expected to be 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph. In the mountains, southwesterly winds may reach up to 35 mph with gusts as high as 60 mph, causing blowing snow.
Chances of rain will linger in the Valley until Thursday, with highs hovering from 60 to 65 degrees and overnight lows around 50 degrees. Mostly sunny skies will return Thursday, with a slight temperature drop in Fresno, to a forecast high of 58 degrees, the weather service said.
A 20 percent chance of rain returns on Friday night and will continue through the weekend.
As of Sunday morning, officials still were keeping an eye on a weakened levee near Tranquillity that was at risk of rupturing and potentially flooding homes.
A flood watch is in effect for the Valley through Tuesday morning because more rain on the already saturated ground could damage and block roads.
Minor flooding is possible along the San Joaquin River in Fresno and Madera counties because of water releases from Friant Dam. Mudslides and rockslides are possible along roads, and quick increases in rivers and creeks could cause problems for residents living along rivers and for motorists.
The weather service said a flood warning is in effect for Stevinson, in western Merced County near the Merced River, which is expected to be just above flood stage through Wednesday. Water releases from Exchequer Dam will continue for several days.
San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services spokesman Tim Daly said Sunday afternoon the San Joaquin River at a measuring station near Vernalis remains at “danger stage,” meaning it keeps approaching the top of levees.
Daly said residents of low-lying areas have been told to be ready to evacuate, especially those in San Joaquin River Club, a private neighborhood of 800 homes by the river.
Resident Paula Martin said the community has organized itself, and residents have been patrolling levees for signs of danger.
A wind advisory is in effect until Monday at midnight for the Valley. Southeasterly winds could topple trees and power lines, especially in the northern San Joaquin Valley, where most of the rain is expected, the weather service said.
Travel on Interstate 5 from Merced County southward is not recommended for campers, trailers or large vehicles because of winds, Caltrans said.
Trouble around state
The storm was pounding statewide, causing utilities to bring in help from around the West. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman Denny Boyles said crews from San Diego and New Mexico were using a PG&E yard in Clovis as a place to rest and restock before being dispatched to areas with storm damage.
The water level was decreasing at Lake Oroville dam, where a damaged spillway had forced the evacuation of 188,000 people last weekend. The amount of water flowing down the spillway has been reduced to 55,000 cubic feet per second. Earlier in the week, outflows were at nearly 100,000 cubic feet per second.
In the Sacramento Valley, a portion of low-lying Interstate 5 near Williams was briefly flooded on Friday. And in nearby Maxwell, Colusa County Assistant Sheriff Jim Saso said residents were being warned there could be more flooding. Dozens of people there sought higher ground after creeks topped their banks and inundated houses on Friday.
The weather service said that an atmospheric river of moisture would take aim somewhere along the Central California coast.
During recent storms, authorities up and down the state have dealt with overflowing creeks, mudslide threats in foothill areas blackened by fires, road collapses and hundreds of toppled trees in neighborhoods. At least three deaths have occurred.