Holiday weekend hampered by chilly, wet weather

On Sunday, May 26, Moro Rock received a foot of fresh snow. This view was visible only briefly from a Middle Fork vantage point before clouds enveloped the mountains once again.

The low pressure that moved through Kaweah Country on Sunday, May 26, quickly skirted the Great Western Divide and by Memorial Day was centered over the southwestern U.S. The counterclockwise flow pushed huge banks of clouds that remained parked over the higher elevations of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Sunday’s (May 26) heaviest rainfall reached Three Rivers by mid-afternoon. Many weekend revelers waited out the downpour at several of the local hangouts including The Gateway, Totem, River View, Three Rivers Brewing Company, Buckaroo Diner, Pizza Factory, and Casa Mendoza.

The clouds parted briefly Sunday evening to reveal an extraordinary sight: elevations above 5,000 feet were snow-covered with Moro Rock flocked with nearly a foot of fresh snow. Campers and visitors who stayed on to brave the wintry weather experienced two to three feet of new snow on the ground in the Giant Forest.

Clouds billow into Three Rivers.

The sun shone only briefly Monday morning (May 27) but retreated behind some heavy cloud cover, keeping the cold, unseasonable temperatures in the 50s. Mountain roads were snow-free by midday but chains were required to be carried by high-country travelers.

For the rest of May 2019, expect a warming trend as high pressure is building and will be parked all along the West Coast by the weekend. The high pressure means that soon Kaweah Country, along with all of California, will be returning to more seasonable high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s.

The afternoon cloudiness will persist in the higher elevations with a chance of isolated showers each day for the next seven days. Sunday, June 3, looks like the best odds for more widespread precipitation.

Sunday’s approximate half-inch of rainfall in Three Rivers brought the season total to 22 inches (at 1,000 feet elevation); in the month of May, the total is now 2.75 inches.

Clouds hovered over Three Rivers during a week of unseasonal wet weather.

Here are some rainfall stats for the current season in the context of the last 60 years: 

There have been six May months (1964, 1971, 1998, 2005, 2016, 2019) with more than two inches of rain recorded in Three Rivers. The highest total among those years was 1998 with 3.08 inches. 2019 is not a record but may be indicative of a trend that began in 2016.

Lake Kaweah

Attendance was down during the Memorial Day holiday weekend compared to recent years as the usual swimming and boating holiday crowd found temperatures in the 50s a little too chilly to be on or in the water. Lake Kaweah recorded .52 inches of rainfall on Sunday, May 26, bringing that area’s season total to 17.99 inches.

There’s a lot of excitement this year around Lake Kaweah as the lake is expected to “spill.” One computer model has that infrequent event occurring during the first week of June.

As of Memorial Day, Lake Kaweah’s elevation was 699.85 feet above mean sea level, meaning only 15 feet to go until the water level reaches the spillway. Storage is 154,346 acre-feet; capacity is 185,000 acre-feet.

Current inflow at Lake Kaweah as of Monday, May 27, is 1,726 cubic feet per second (1,698 cfs of the inflow is coming from the Middle Fork); outflow is 2,231 cfs, which has caused the elevation to drop .45 feet in the last 24 hours. Expect that trend to continue until the warmer temperatures settle in Kaweah Country later in the week.   

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