After storms and funnel cloud sightings, here’s what’s in store for the weekend

A dry central San Joaquin Valley is in the forecast for Saturday after a series of storms passed through during the week.

For Sunday, the National Weather Service in Hanford predicts a 30 percent chance of showers from a storm headed down from the Gulf of Alaska. The storm is mainly headed toward the coast but it could extend to western portions of the Valley.

Isolated showers from that storm could produce about one-tenth of an inch of rain in the Valley, including the Fresno area. The weather station forecasts the Valley showers to arrive between noon and 2 p.m. Sunday.

A dusting of snow is also in the forecast for foothill areas as low as 3,000 feet, while Yosemite Valley could get four to five inches of snow Sunday.

Earlier in the week, a series of storms brought about .22 inches of rain in the Fresno area between Tuesday and Thursday. The weather service recorded higher rain amounts in the Merced and Bakersfield areas.

Some of the passing storms produced more than just rain.

Funnel cloud

A skinny funnel cloud was spotted rotating northeast of Hanford on Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

Meteorologist Jim Dudley said the funnel cloud hovered near Hanford and then cleared away as a storm cell moved toward Kingsburg.

The storm cell also produced rain. The funnel cloud was captured on video by several people online. And it was visible from the weather station in Hanford.

“For a funnel cloud, it was very long and had a very skinny appearance,” Dudley said. “It wasn’t dangerous, other than it was very interesting to watch.”

Tom Pender caught footage of the cloud and shared the images on Twitter.

The cloud was spotted at about 5:19 p.m. and lasted about 10 minutes, Dudley said. It did not threaten any structures and it is not believed that it touched down anywhere.

The storm cell that produced the funnel cloud was moving north about 15 mph, but the potential for new funnel clouds was low, Dudley said. He said there was another possible sighting Thursday near Patterson in western Stanislaus County.

6 tornadoes in 6 weeks

There have been six tornadoes in the central San Joaquin Valley over the past six weeks.

Carlos Molina, another Hanford-based weather service meteorologist, said this weather is typical for the time of the year as the spring season nears, but the funnel cloud and tornado activity has been noteworthy.

“We’ve been in an unsettled weather pattern,” said Molina, noting that the frequency of storms has increased since the start of the year.

Normally there would be one storm per week, he said, but lately that number has grown to about three per week, and with each one is the chance of funnel cloud or tornado. Historically, March is the busiest year for tornado weather in the central Valley, Molina said.

What causes that is what meteorologists call “convective” weather storms. Molina said that means that heat from the warm ground rises and mixes with the colder air above.

“It creates an air current that forces things to go up. When you get that forced air ... that produces a convective storm,” Molina said.

This year the funnel cloud sightings have increased in the eastern portion of the Valley, while in previous seasons they mostly stayed on the west side and out of view of much of the population.

The majority of funnel clouds don’t touch the ground, and those that have this year were upgraded to tornadoes. They have mostly been graded EF0, which is least dangerous.

An EF1 tornado did touch down in Clovis on Jan. 17 and damaged a barn, according to Hanford NWS meteorologist Andy Bollenbacher.

He previously told The Bee that while the latest tornado sightings have been in rural areas, “It’s important for people not to believe that they’re completely impervious” to that weather in large population areas.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a general assignment reporter at The Fresno Bee. He grew up in Porterville and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State. He is a former student editor at the Fresno State and Fresno City College newspapers. His hobbies include reading, sleeping, running and taking care of his dog.