Weekend storm helps Fresno beat rain season average

The weekend storms that hit Fresno pushed the rain-season total above average for the first time since 2010, said William Peterson, hydro-meteorology technician with the National Weather Service in Hanford.

Peterson said that as it continued to rain, the number continued to rise.

The seasonal average of 11.5 inches was beaten, “and it’s only March,” Peterson said.

“We’ve had another 1.01 inches of rain since midnight (alone),” Peterson said Monday.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, Fresno was at 12.15 inches of rain and still climbing. Peterson said another quarter inch of rain was expected through the rest of the day.

The last time Fresno beat the average – which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30– was the 2010-11 season.

While rain was tapering off Monday afternoon, a winter storm warning was in effect for the Grapevine south of Bakersfield until at least 4 a.m. Tuesday, Peterson said.

Because of snow, “there’s a good chance the Grapevine will close sometime today. Some side roads have been closed already,” Peterson said.

Although rainfall is a welcome respite during the drought, it can wreak havoc with commutes and construction projects.

There were numerous minor accidents Monday on Fresno-area highways.

An area of street at Yale and Palm avenues near Hamilton Elementary School in Fresno flooded, but crews worked quickly to fix the issue.

“I’m sure Yale and Palm have drain inlets that got clogged due to the excessive amount of rain and debris,” said Randy Schrey, supervising engineering technician with the Fresno Public Works Department.

In Madera County, several roadways were closed because of flooding, including Avenue 13 southeast of Madera and Avenue 10 near Madera Ranchos.

Brent Sunamoto, operations manger with the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District, said the storm systems hitting the area do good things for the groundwater.

“All of that storm water goes into the basins – we let some go to avoid floods – (but) it’s being retained and is going to improve as it’s percolating into the ground,” Sunamoto said.

Mark Standriff, director of communications and public affairs for Fresno, said that even though local rainfall is good, the region is better off when it falls at higher elevations.

“We appreciate every single drop of water that we can possibly get,” Standriff said.

He said every drop that gets back into the ground is a good thing, but snow in the foothills and mountains that eventually turns into flowing water that comes down into the Valley is much better.

“When it rains here, we’re watching what it’s doing at higher elevations,” Standriff said. He added that it will take years of heavier rainfall to replenish the groundwater and wash away the drought.

“But we’re much better off than we have been in the last couple of years,” he said.

Rain also causes construction delays.

A section of Santa Fe Avenue is closed between Palo Alto Avenue and Figarden Drive. A construction project was supposed to run between Nov. 30, 2015 through Dec. 14, 2015. However, the roadway is still closed.

“The primary reason for this has been the inclement weather,” Schrey said. “The ground was so saturated in December and January that little work could be completed.”

Schrey said the ground wasn’t dry enough until February to allow for the concrete work, but everything is back on hold because of the latest storms and projected rains to follow.

“When the weather clears and work can commence, the road will open after about one to two weeks of work,” Schrey said.

Meanwhile, after Monday, skies should clear up until later in the week, Peterson said.

Tuesday and Wednesday will have clearing skies. But there is a 20 percent chance of rain on Thursday, Peterson said. By Friday night, the chance of rain rises to 50 percent as a new round of storms is expected to hit Fresno for the weekend.

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