Valley weather expected to warm up a bit

A gentle rain on Saturday helped chase away frigid temperatures and provide some relief to weary Valley citrus growers.

By about 11 p.m., rainfall totals in the area were modest — nothing above 0.30 of an inch, and that was in Merced. Fresno received only 0.11 of an inch of rain.

The snow level dropped to 3,500 feet. Tuolumne Meadows received 18 inches of snow and Grant Grove had 26 inches.

On the Valley floor, the storm brought a break in freezing temperatures. Citrus growers have been running irrigation water and wind machines to protect groves from bitterly cold nights.

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, said Saturday's storm should help fruit gain in size and "allow the growers to get a full night's sleep."

Rain was expected to move through overnight on the Valley floor. At higher elevations, snow was expected to build primarily overnight -- 10 to 16 inches above 5,000 feet and 12 to 24 inches above 7,000 feet.

Jim Dudley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, said lows for the next few days should be in the mid-30s in the Fresno area.

"The cold, cold stuff we had is pretty much gone," he said.

Skies are expected to clear today. Temperatures should climb over the next few days, with Wednesday's high projected in the low-60s.

The next storm system could arrive Thursday, Dudley said.

California Highway Patrol officers urged drivers to be cautious on roadways.

"Slow down and increase that following distance -- especially at this time of year when it's wet and slippery," said CHP officer Kirk Arnold.

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