A massive storm is bearing down on the central San Joaquin Valley, prompting closures in Yosemite Valley, precautionary draining from area lakes and anti-flood measures across several counties. Meteorologists predict this “atmospheric river” will be the strongest storm in the last five years – possibly more.
All roads in the Yosemite Valley were closed at 5 p.m. Friday, the National Park Service said, and hotel guests and visitors were moved out in preparation for the expected deluge.
Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said visitor services and facilities will be extremely limited, but other parts of the national park will remain open:
▪ Hetch Hetchy via Evergreen Road will remain open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
▪ Hodgdon Meadow Campground will remain open on a first-come, first-served basis. Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove will remain open, and Crane Flat Gas Station is open. The Big Oak Flat Road will be closed at the junction to Foresta.
▪ Wawona Campground will remain open on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors will have access to the Redwoods Guest cottages. There will be access to Yosemite West. Wawona Road will be closed at Chinquapin, and no access will be available to Glacier Point Road.
▪ Highway 140 will be closed at the park line in El Portal. Businesses along Highway 140 outside of the park are anticipated to remain open.
The National Weather Service in Hanford forecasts the storm will hit Saturday and intensify on Sunday. Yosemite, the rest of the Sierra and the surrounding foothills will bear the brunt of the rainfall, as up to a foot of rain is expected to drench the higher elevations between Saturday and Monday. The foothills will get 3 to 7 inches during that same time. The snow level will be around 10,000 feet.
This warm rain also will melt much of the existing snow, which is likely to cause flooding in rivers. Both the weather service and the park service are predicting the Merced River will flood in Yosemite Valley.
There is a high chance of mudslides and rockslides throughout the Sierra and foothills.
Rain and potential flooding will hit the central San Joaquin Valley floor as well. Fresno will get 2 to 2.5 inches of rain between Saturday and Monday, while Madera and Merced could see even more. The southern part of the Valley is expected to get a little less.
Southern California Edison spokeswoman Mary Ann Milbourn said water has been released from Shaver and Redinger lakes in anticipation of the expected runoff. Crews are on standby to deal with flooding or other problems.
Denny Boyles, spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric, said water flows over the spillway on the Crane Valley Dam at Bass Lake are expected to begin as early as Sunday. Other PG&E reservoirs spilling or expected to begin spilling next week include Manzanita Lake and Kerckhoff Lake. Such spillage is typical during the wettest months of normal winters, he said. Even so, he said, people should be cautious when going near rivers because of storm-related runoffs.
Fresno spokesman Mark Standriff said the storm could bring the most rainfall to the city since May 2015. If it remains steady over 48 hours, which is what currently is predicted, flooding problems should be minimal. However, the city’s drainage system will flood if a half-inch or more of rain falls in a one-hour period.
These Fresno intersections are some of the problem flooding areas: Friant and Alluvial avenues, the Wishon Avenue underpass near Shields and Maroa avenues, Palm and Herndon avenues, Valentine and Princeton avenues, North and Lee streets.
Standriff said crews already have pumped water out of several ponding basins after crews released water from Friant Dam on Thursday. City maintenance and tree crews will be on call throughout the weekend. If anyone spots flooding or fallen trees, call 559-621-2489 or use the FresGO mobile app.
Officials with Fresno, Madera and Kings counties could not be reached to address possible problems in their areas.
In Tulare County, crews are keeping an eye on the creeks and rivers that run east to west from south of Porterville to Alpaugh and Allensworth. Three roads already have been closed in anticipation of the storm: Road 148 between Avenue 24 and Avenue 32, Road 156 between Avenue 24 and Avenue 32, and Road 216 between Avenue 128 and Avenue 136.
Mountain Highway M99 – the road that runs from Kernville along the Kern River – is Tulare County’s most common location for rockslides.
Visalia city spokeswoman Allison M. Mackey said public works personnel are paying close attention to the downtown area and streets near creeks for possible flooding issues.
Madera public works director Dave Randall said the city does not have any problem areas for flooding, but extra staff will be available if any flooding occurs.
Several smaller storms are expected to hit the Valley next week.
The rain and snow will add to what has so far been an average snow year. As of Friday, the water content of snow in the central Sierra was 12.1 inches – exactly 100 percent of the yearly average for this date.
But Fresno has received more rain than normal. As of Friday, the city had recorded 5.20 inches of rain – well above the 3.83 that is normal for the season to date.
To report a road issue:
Fresno (city): 559-621-2489
Fresno County: 559-488-3111
Madera (city): 559-675-4200
Madera County: 559-675-7811
Tulare County: 559-624-7000
Kings County: 911
Merced County: 209-385-7601
Kern County: 800-427-7623
Sandbag distribution sites (bring your own shovel)
Biola, Area 4 Road Yard, 12855 W. G St.
Fresno-Clovis, Area 7 Road Yard, 9400 N. Matus Ave., Fresno
Sanger, Area 8 Road Yard, 9525 E. Olive Ave.
Tranquillity, Area 2 Road Yard, Denver and Lincoln avenues
Clovis public works yard, 155 N. Sunnyside Ave.
Coalinga Fire Department, 300 W. Elm Ave.
Kings County public works yard, South 11th Avenue, Hanford
Hanford city public works yard, 900 S. 10th Ave., Hanford
Lemoore, lot at F and Fox streets (across from Leprino Foods East)
Sandbags and sand can be obtained at the following sites.
Madera County Fire Station No. 3, 25950 Avenue 18 1/2 , Madera
Madera County Fire Station No. 8, 47050 Road 417 (and Quartz Mountain Road), Coarsegold
CAL FIRE Rancheria Fire Station, 53488 Road 200, O’Neals
Madera County Fire Station No. 12, 48355 Liberty Drive, Oakhurst
Madera County Fire Station No. 19, 35141 Bonadelle Ave., Madera
Madera Power LLC, 11427 Firebaugh Blvd., Madera
For sand only:
Madera County Central Garage, 14335 Road 28, Madera
Ponding basin, Avenue 24 and Road 19, Madera
Rotary Park, 930 N. Gateway Drive, Madera
Vacant lot, southeast corner, Clinton and Tozer streets, Madera
Vacant lot, E and 14th streets, across from railroad tracks, Madera
Chowchilla Public Works Yard, 360 N. First St., Chowchilla
Bass Lake Sewer Plant (behind court building), Road 274, Bass Lake
Sewer Treatment Plant, Victoria Lane, Oakhurst
For sandbags only:
Madera City Fire Station No. 6, 317 N. Lake St., Madera
Madera City Fire Station No. 7, 200 S. Schnoor Ave., Madera
Madera Public Works Yard, 1030 S. Gateway Drive, Madera
Chowchilla City Hall, 130 S. Second St., Chowchilla
Chowchilla Police Department, 122 Trinity Ave., Chowchilla
Fire stations in Alpaugh, Pixley, Earlimart, West Olive Avenue and Doyle Colony in Porterville, Lindsay, Lemon Cove, Three Rivers, Cutler/Orosi
Visalia City Public Works Yard, 335 N. Cain St.