El Nino arrives with a wintry blast


The cold storm that arrived Monday, Nov. 2, dumped more than 1.20 inches of rain in Three Rivers and 1 to 2 feet of snow in the nearby mountains. Wednesday’s predawn clash of thunder and lightning left behind another quarter-inch of precipitation including an accumulation of mini-ice balls. 

The coating of ice had Three Rivers residents dreaming of a white Christmas or at least a snowfall not often experienced in the foothills. This hail, or small ice balls, was layered ice particles produced by a thunderstorm with an extreme updraft. 

Hailstorms form in unusually unstable air masses in which the temperature falloff proportionate to the height of the cloud is much greater than normal. Forecasters label weather like this as “severe.” Get used to severe in the local forecast because the October statement from the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Three Rivers and Kaweah Country is sitting right on the northern tier of where the effects of El Nino are reported to be most pronounced. 

This year’s El Nino ranks among the strongest on record. Temperature values in the Equatorial Pacific have not been observed close to the readings for 2015 since the last major El Nino in 1997-1998. 

“While it is good news that drought improvement is predicted in California, one season of above-average rain and snow is unlikely to remove four years of drought,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “California would need close to twice its normal rainfall to get out of drought and that is unlikely.”

Three Rivers has already received more than four inches of rainfall season-to-date and currently is sporting a base of 16 inches of snow at 7,500 feet. With a 30 percent chance of more precipitation in the forecast for Monday, Nov. 9, more rain and snow is likely soon.

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