A wet week has raised Fresno rain totals up to pre-drought levels and dropped some welcome snow on Sierra communities.
According to the National Weather Service in Hanford, the recent downpour has brought January’s rainfall total for Fresno up to 1.74 inches – the highest total for the first week of a year since 2006. Last year, Fresno had received no rain by this date and had only 0.21 of an inch in the entire month of January. The January 2014 total was 0.57 of an inch.
24-hour rain totals in inches through 4 p.m. Wednesday: Madera: .21 Fresno: .63 Hanford: .36 Lemoore: .26 Visalia: .42 Yosemite: .39 Oakhurst: .74 Three Rivers: .74 Source: National Weather Service
Fresno has soaked up more than 4 inches of rain since Dec. 1 and 6.26 inches since Oct. 1, the new date for the beginning of the annual rain season. In the last full water year – July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 – the city’s rain total was 6.61 inches. The average annual rainfall amount for Fresno is 11.5 inches.
The precipitation, rain and snow, is a welcome sight throughout the central San Joaquin Valley and central Sierra.
Snowfall was treated like manna from heaven by Shaver Lake merchants who have struggled through several winters of barren mountains and few visitors.
“Oh, yes,” said Debby Dixon, a worker at Shaver Lake Sport, when she was asked whether things were picking up. “Everybody loves the snow. It’s fantastic up here.”
Falling snow covered roads, homes and businesses in Shaver Lake as the next in a series of winter storms rolled across Central California.
The wintry scenes are visible in webcams set up at points around Shaver Lake.
Visitors aren’t just coming for the day, according to Realtor Ron Henson at Shaver Lake Vacation Rentals. “Christmas and New Year’s were sold out. The phone is ringing off the hook.”
Debora Delaney of the Shaver Lake Visitor’s Bureau said the area had 6 to 8 inches of snow as of Wednesday afternoon. Huntington Lake had about 10 inches, and China Peak to the north had about a foot and expects another foot by the weekend.
Delaney said cars have choked the roads in and out of Shaver Lake with stop-and-go traffic. She suggests travelers try to head up into the mountains after 10 a.m. on weekdays, when the roads are cleared of snow.
Chains are required on Highway 168 from Shaver Lake to the east end of Huntington Lake. The only exception is for four-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires, the state Department of Transportation said. Chains also are needed on Highway 41 from 2 miles north of Big Cedar Springs in Madera County to Yosemite National Park.
Keeping pace in Fresno
On the Valley floor, Fresno maintenance workers were scrambling to fill potholes created on city streets by the recent series of downpours. But it’s nothing they can’t handle, according to city spokesman Mark Standriff.
“It’s something we always see,” he said, adding the repairs will cost the city a little bit in overtime hours.
Standriff said the city’s infrastructure was holding up well. Certain areas of town serve as leading indicators of possible flooding, including the Wishon Avenue Underpass south of Shields Avenue, as well as intersections at Shaw and Marks avenues, Herndon and Palm avenues, and Friant and Fort Washington roads. When there is flooding in those areas, it’s a possible sign of trouble. Standriff said all are holding up well.
He explained that storm drains can handle about one-half inch of rain an hour before they become overwhelmed. He said years of drought have left the ground so dry it is soaking up the rainfall.
“The pumps are clean and operational,” he added. “The storm drains are cleaned out.”
However, wet ground is causing some trees to topple. The city was called into action by 5 p.m. Wednesday to help residents of a central Fresno apartment complex.
City fire and public works officials scrambled to remove a large tree that had fallen on the complex near Fresno Street and Olive Avenue. Fresno Fire Department spokesman Pete Martinez said the heavy rain caused the tree’s roots to loosen, dropping the tree against the complex roof and forcing the temporary evacuation of a dozen residents.
Linda Straw said she was watching TV when the tree fell on her roof.
“It sounded like a freight train coming through my house,” she said.
Another tree fell on McKinley Avenue near Winery Avenue, blocking traffic on McKinley for some time.
Flooding was reported near First Street and Bullard Avenue in northeast Fresno. The National Weather Service issued an urban flood advisory for Wednesday night until 7:15 p.m.
Fresno County Public Works division manager Randy Ishii said that no flooding or rain-related issues were reported in county areas as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. He added that storm teams are working proactively to keep the roads clear.
National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Ochs said the slow, steady rainfall from cold storm systems don’t cause as much flooding as their warmer counterparts, which caused flooding throughout the Valley and mudslides on the Grapevine in December.
“There’s only a few places – mostly in the foothills – seeing more than a half-inch of rain per hour,” he said.
Ochs said the top of the Grapevine has been cold enough to transform some rain into snow. Because that snow has to melt before seeping into the ground, the mudslides haven’t reoccurred yet.
The forecast calls for much of the same weather over the next few days. Fresno and most other Valley cities will see highs around 55 degrees until Tuesday.
There’s a 50 percent chance of light rain on Thursday, with Friday having a very small chance of rain. However, another storm system will hit Saturday and Sunday, bringing rainfall totals similar to those seen throughout the Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday.