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With two storms brewing, forecasters concerned about flooding in Sierra Nevada, Central Valley

In case you forgot: Here’s how to drive safely in winter weather

Caltrans offers tips for driving and traveling over the Sierra to Lake Tahoe in winter conditions of snow and rain.
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Caltrans offers tips for driving and traveling over the Sierra to Lake Tahoe in winter conditions of snow and rain.

The southern Sierra Nevada is expected to see a pair of storm systems in the coming days that could create “significant flooding” over the several burn scars in the area, according to weather officials.

The first of the two is expected to arrive this weekend, said Kevin Durfee, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. But that system is expected to be a “quick hitter,” with less than an inch of precipitation expected throughout Yosemite National Park and the foothills.

Next week’s storm, which is expected to hit the area midweek, is the primary source of concern.

“That storm could bring between 2 and 5 inches of rain,” Durfee said. “That’s gonna be a higher-impact storm. If those rain amounts do materialize, we could be looking at some significant flooding over the burn scars, and rising water levels in rivers and streams.”

Areas of concern include, the Ferguson Fire, Detwiler Fire and Railroad Fire burn scars, as well as areas near rivers and small streams. Durfee said heavy rainfall on the burn scars creates a risk for mudslides and falling debris.

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A 17-mile stretch of Highway 140 near the Ferguson Fire burn scar in Mariposa County has been closed down each time the foothills received heavy rainfall.

Durfee also said flooding might be possible in Merced along Highway 59 in the vicinity of Mariposa Creek. The portion of the highway between Sandy Mush Road and Mission Avenue was closed for 10 days in early February due to flooding concerns and closed again last week for the same reason.

Even with the storm a week out, Durfee said the confidence level within the weather service of the forecast is “higher than usual.”

But Durfee still stressed that all forecasts and precipitation projections were preliminary and conditions would be updated as the storm gets closer.

Snow levels for this week’s and next week’s storms are expected to be at 7,000 feet and 9,000 feet, respectively. These levels are much higher than previous storms this winter.

“We’re getting a more tropical connection with these patterns, from the west or the southwest. Earlier in the month, we had storms coming out of Alaska and western Canada,” Durfee said.

Durfee said areas above 7,000 feet could experience between 5 to 12 inches of snow over the weekend.

Guerneville, CA, along the Russian River, is accessible only by boat after the rain-swollen river overflowed on February 27, 2019.

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