Clovis News

Latest storm soaks Valley, brings Sierra snow

7:40 p.m.:

The rockslide on Highway 168 near the top of the four-lane section was cleared around 7 p.m. today, said Axel Reyes, a California Highway Patrol public information officer.

Reyes said rockslides in the area are common at this time of year, and motorists should be prepared for additional slides to occur.

6:20 p.m.:

Fresno State reports that Barstow Avenue has reopened. The road was closed so Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews could work on two damaged power poles.

1:58 p.m.: CHP patrol cars are escorting groups of about 300 vehicles on Interstate 5 over the Grapevine in both directions to see if the freeway is safe for travel.

“If it starts snowing again or if it’s icy, they will shut it down,” said Marc McWilliams, a California Highway Patrol officer.

Interstate 5 over the Grapevine, the Valley’s primary route to Southern California, was closed at about 10 a.m. today because of snow and ice, the California Department of Transportation reported.

Drivers can call (800) 427-ROAD for the latest road conditions.

1:58 p.m.: Flights out of the Fresno-Yosemite International airport to Las Vegas and San Francisco are delayed today because of stormy weather.

“Getting out of Fresno is not a problem,” said Vikkie Calderon, FYI spokeswoman. “The problem is some destination points.”

One flight to San Francisco at 5:30 a.m. today was canceled, she said.

1:38 p.m.: An all-time low barometric pressure reading for Fresno was reached earlier today, an outcome of the high-intensity storm moving through the region.

The reading of 28.96 inches was recorded at 1 p.m. today, breaking the previous record of 29.10 inches set Jan. 27, 1916, said Jim Dudley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford. The new mark was for all dates.

“The lower the pressure, the more intense the storm is,” Dudley said.

The new record could be broken during this storm, he said.

1:15 p.m.: About 4,000 PG&E customers throughout Fresno County were without power at 1 p.m. today because of downed poles and damaged transformers.

“These outages are all a result of the storms,” said Jeff Smith, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman.

12:40 p.m.: The Sierra's snow level is expected to fall to 2,500 feet as temperatures dip late tonight, the National Weather Service in Hanford reported.

A winter storm warning for snowfall in the foothills is in effect until 9 a.m. Friday, said Jim Dudley, a weather service meteorologist.About 2 to 4 inches of snow could fall at 2,500 feet overnight and up to 7 inches could accumulate at 4,000 feet -- the level at which snow is currently coming down, Dudley said.

12:05 p.m.: A group of Humane Society workers from Southern Oregon are waiting out the storm in Fresno with 84 rescued dogs. Rambelaine Kennels and Animal Rescue of Fresno have provided temporary housing for the animals.

The dogs, who faced euthanasia, are being taken to new homes in Oregon.

“It is simply too risky for staff and animals to travel in heavy snow conditions," Hillary Hulen, director of shelter operations for the Southern Oregon Humane Society, told Madera television station KTVL. "If we were to become stranded there is no way we could adequately care for 80-plus small dogs traveling in kennels.

"Many are Chihuahuas and it is simply too cold for them. We are prepared for winter travel but these are treacherous conditions.”

Noon: Barstow Avenue near California State University, Fresno remained closed today -- the first day of the new semester -- as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews work on two damaged power poles.

A university spokesman said one pole is expected to be fixed by about 3:30 p.m. and the other by 11 p.m. The goal is to reopen that section of Barstow Avenue by midnight.

10:45 a.m.: A flood advisory for urban areas and small streams is in effect until 5 p.m. for central and southern San Joaquin Valley.

The National Weather Service said showers and isolated thunderstorms will continue through tonight, with the heaviest showers this afternoon. Runoff will keep creeks and streams running high.

Stormy conditions are expected to continue through Friday. A respite is expected the weekend, followed by more storms Monday.

The storms have led to an increased alert near the Ferguson rockslide site in Merced Canyon, six miles from the Highway 140 entrance to Yosemite National Park. Sensors have been monitoring rock movement there since October 2006.

A power outage was reported this morning in the Fresno area between Shields and Dakota avenues and Blackstone and Maroa avenues. Another was reported in Clovis near Highway 168 and Fowler Avenue. Estimates of the number of affected customers were not available.

10:30 a.m.: Interstate 5 over the Grapevine, the Valley's primary route to Southern California, was closed about 10 a.m. because of snow and ice, the California Department of Transportation reported.

Southbound lanes are closed at Grapevine Road and northbound lanes are shut near Highway 138.

No estimate for when the route might reopen was given. Drivers can call (800) 427-ROAD for the latest road conditions.

10:15 p.m. Wednesday: The latest storm to hit the Valley downed more trees and power lines, drenched roadways and temporarily blocked snowbound mountain passes Wednesday.

But it could have been much worse.

Elsewhere in the state, the winter storm flooded lanes of a major freeway, threatened beachside apartments and killed a man who tried to drive across a flooded road in western Stanislaus County.

Weather forecasters predict a brief break this morning in the stormy onslaught, but then intense rain and wind will follow this afternoon, said Gary Sanger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford.

The storm hit travelers particularly hard Wednesday.

Snow closed Highway 168 at Sierra Summit on Wednesday afternoon because of "a snowslide," said Jose Camarena, a Caltrans spokesman.

"It came down in one big lump," he said. The highway reopened Wednesday evening, but a rockslide later closed part of Highway 168 about 8 miles west of Pineridge in Fresno County.

Snow also closed Interstate 5 over the Grapevine for a few hours Wednesday afternoon. CHP patrol cars began escorting southbound traffic over the Grapevine by late afternoon, said Graciela Torres Torres, a California Highway Patrol officer. Northbound lanes reopened by Wednesday evening.

The heavy rain and winds downed power lines and damaged poles and transformers, causing outages that left more than 13,000 customers in Fresno County without power, said Jeff Smith, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokesman. Power was restored to all but 2,263 customers by 5:30 p.m., he said.

Meanwhile, wind whipped through two North Valley airports. Castle Airport in Atwater recorded a wind gust of 68 mph at 1:50 p.m., and Merced Municipal Airport had a gust of 60 mph about an hour earlier.

"The storm moved through there and slammed them," Sanger said.

A wind gust of 43 mph was recorded at Fresno Yosemite International airport about noon.

On the west side of the Valley, Kettleman Hills had a gust of 54 mph, Avenal recorded one of 52 mph and Lemoore Naval Air Station had a gust of 48 mph late Wednesday morning.

Heavy rains produced some isolated road flooding across the Valley.

This week's storms flooded Highway 269, closing the north-south road just north of Huron.

Caltrans closed Highway 269, also known as Lassen Avenue, about 8 p.m. Tuesday, said Gerald Ford, Huron city manager.

Heavy rain occasionally overflows the Arroyo Pasajero, a creek flowing east from the Diablo Range on the west side of the Valley and across state Highway 269.

The highway near Huron, a southwest Fresno County town, was last closed to flooding four years ago, Ford said.

Rain pooled alongside some rural roads in Tulare County, causing flooding, said Jim May, the county's flood control manager.

One man was missing and presumed drowned in Stanislaus County when he apparently drove around flood-warning barriers and ignored flashing warning lights to cross a flooded road Tuesday night.

Two Newman police officers heard the man screaming when they were checking the creek about 10:30 p.m., but they were unable to rescue him.

Wednesday's storm dropped 0.28 of an inch of rain on Fresno between midnight and 4 p.m., according to National Weather Service.

Fresno's seasonal rainfall stood at 5.4 inches, 1.7 inches above normal, the weather service said. Storms this week have dropped 1.29 inches of rain in Fresno as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The winter storm's grip may ease starting Friday. Clouds could clear somewhat Saturday, for a mostly sunny day with a high temperature of about 53 degrees.

Typical after-storm patchy fog is expected to form Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The fog could be swept away by light rainfall Sunday night.

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