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Weather service: ‘Strongest storm we’ve seen yet’ to arrive in Fresno area Wednesday

Watch how strong winter storm will hit Northern California this week day by day

National Weather Service Sacramento helps you plan your week in this model's forecast timing of rain and snow this week. Light showers will begin ahead of Tuesday's system. A much stronger winter storm will hit Northern California through Friday.
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National Weather Service Sacramento helps you plan your week in this model's forecast timing of rain and snow this week. Light showers will begin ahead of Tuesday's system. A much stronger winter storm will hit Northern California through Friday.

The National Weather Service is warning of a massive storm headed toward the central San Joaquin Valley that is expected to produce heavy rain, wind, snow and possibly mudslides.

“It will, when it’s all said and done, be the strongest storm we’ve seen yet this rainy season,” Bill South, senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service Hanford office, said Monday.

Signs of what’s to come later this week were felt Monday, with strong winds toppling semis in Kern County freeways and snow starting to stick on the Grapevine. South says those conditions were part of the shift in the weather pattern that will affect northern areas of the central San Joaquin Valley starting Wednesday afternoon; weak showers are expected Tuesday in the Fresno area.

The weather service said a very strong atmospheric river event will be to blame for strong weather events starting Wednesday afternoon and lasting through Thursday night. The intense storm could become dangerous for travelers and people living along burned areas, South said.

Rain, wind and snow in the forecast

Residents in foothill and mountain areas should brace for heavy rain before the atmospheric river begins to pound Central California on Wednesday afternoon. The projected intense showers have potential to cause havoc along burned areas from the Ferguson, Detwiler and Pier fires, South said.

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The National Weather Service is predicting a strong storm to hit the central San Joaquin Valley starting Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2019, afternoon and lasting through Thursday. The storm is being produced by an Atmospheric River moving through the area. National Weather Service

By the time the storm is over Thursday night, the foothill areas in Madera and Mariposa counties could see 2 to 3 inches of rain.

“If ( the rain) falls at a rapid rate, it could cause rockslides, mudslides and flooding,” South said.

Travel could be severely impeded in higher mountain areas of the Sierra Nevada, where there is a warning of flooding, heavy snowfall above 7,000 feet and winds of about 60 mph in the southern parts of the Sierra. Winds of 50 mph are expected in the nearby foothills.

South said 1 to 3 feet of snow is expected in elevations above 7,000 feet. Isolated areas could see up to 4 inches of snow. Shaver Lake could see 4 to 6 inches of snow by Friday.

In the Valley floor, the Fresno area could get an inch and a half to two inches of rain in the Wednesday overnight storm. Wind gusts in the Valley are expected to rise to 40 mph during the same period. He also cautioned drivers of roadway flooding.

“It’s a major storm for sure,” South said.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado: 559-441-6304, @cres_guez
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