A slow moving storm drenched the central San Joaquin Valley on Sunday, flooding roads, unleashing rock and mudslides and triggering scores of fender benders on area roadways.
In Fresno, as rain continued to fall, 1.47 inches of rain had been recorded as of 9 p.m., setting a record for the date -- the first day of spring, the National Weather Service said. The old record was 1.22 inches, set in 1893. The heaviest rainfall on any March day was set on March 10, 1995, when 2.38 inches were recorded.
"We've been hoping to make up for the fact that we've not had much rain since the December storms," National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Sanger said Sunday afternoon. "We're kind of getting our prayers answered."
And how: Rain is expected through most of this week, and maybe beyond.
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Behind Sunday's storm, Sanger said, is an unstable air mass that will bring showers today, along with a slight chance of thunderstorms. The snow level is expected to be 3,500 to 4,000 feet.
Rain should diminish tonight.
The next storm is due to hit the Valley late Tuesday night and last until late Wednesday night. There will then be a chance of showers on both Thursday and Friday.
The weather service's forecast models then diverge, with one indicating Saturday should bring fair weather and the other showing another heavy rainstorm.
Sunday's storm stalled over the Valley for much of the day before starting to move east in the afternoon, Sanger said. The storm caused scattered street flooding in Fresno and Clovis.
Snow levels dropped as low as 2,200 feet Sunday at El Portal, just west of Yosemite National Park.
Snow and icy conditions prompted closure of two entrances to the famed park -- at Highway 41 and at Highway 120, park officials said. In addition, mudslides closed westbound Highway 140 from four miles east of Midpines to the Yosemite National Park entrance.
Late Sunday, the California Highway Patrol closed both directions of Interstate 5 at the Grapevine because of heavy snow.
The CHP reported scores of fender benders Sunday.
Among them were a tractor-trailer and a small sedan in the southbound lanes of Highway 99 near Avenue 16 in Tulare County, a four-car accident on Highway 41 that closed the southbound offramp to Bullard Avenue, and a car that hit a traffic signal pole at Shaw and Maroa avenues in Fresno.
In addition to fender benders, in at least two locations -- on the Shaw Avenue onramp to northbound Highway 99 and at the top of the four-lane near Shaver Lake -- tree limbs fell.
The Valley was under a flood advisory until early this morning, the weather service said.
Highway 269, the main road into the tiny western Fresno County town of Huron from the north, was closed between Highway 198 and Palmer Avenue because of floods and mudslides, according to the CHP.
Also known as Lassen Avenue, the road is known for flooding during heavy rains, and frustrated Huron residents live through the hassle year after year.
It happens after heavy rain causes the Arroyo Pasajero -- a creek flowing east from the Diablo Range on the west side of the Valley and across state Highway 269 -- to rise. A dip in the highway just north of town floods, making it impassable. In past years, it has at times been impassable for weeks.
Highway 198 west of Coalinga also is closed due to snow and rockslides between Firestone Avenue and Highway 25, the California Department of Transportation reported.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reported 23 power outages affecting 759 customers across Fresno County.
The biggest outages were in northwest Fresno, where around 400 customers were affected in squares bounded by Ashlan and Barstow and West and Palm avenues, and between Shaw and Herndon and Palm and Blackstone avenues, spokesman Denny Boyles said.
The utility's biggest problems were farther north. In an area between Madera County to just south of Stockton, for instance, 14,000 customers were without power.
Southern California Edison reported two outages in Tulare County, both because of downed power lines.
One was in Visalia, near Mooney Boulevard and Avenue 272. It affected an unknown number of customers, but it was not scheduled to be fixed until early this morning. The other was in Ducor.