Pacific storm drenches much of California


Strong winds on the leading edge of one of the larger storms to hit California in the past five years brought heavy rains to the Bay Area and the central San Joaquin Valley on Thursday, Dec. 11. The moisture following the heavy winds was expected to reach Kaweah Country and Three Rivers in the predawn hours of Friday, Dec. 12.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Hanford issued a high wind warning from Los Banos southward for all central San Joaquin Valley communities. The wind warning was also extended to foothills communities like Three Rivers that could experience wind gusts of more than 50 mph.

“The threshold for severe property damage is 58 mph,” one forecaster said. “At minimum, high-profile vehicles should not be on the roads, and downed trees, broken power lines, and roof damage is likely.”

The severe alerts were expected to be lifted by 10 p.m. Thursday as the system moved into the mountains of eastern Tulare County.

Farmers in the middle of a bumper navel orange harvest looked on the storm as an inconvenience. Even an extended wet period is better than one year ago when temperatures dipped into the teens for several consecutive nights and the damage to local citrus crops was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The storm, expected to taper off by tonight (Friday, Dec. 12), was forecasted to dump one to two inches of rain in the foothills and more than two feet of snow at elevations above 7,000 feet.

As of Thursday, Dec. 11, the total rainfall this season for Three Rivers at the 1,000 ft. elevation was 3.33 inches (before the December 12 storm). More rain and snow is in the forecast for midweek and next weekend. The storm door is open and the jet stream is parked right over California.

Forecast for the week: High temperatures will remain in the upper 50s with a low 60 possible if next Thursday or Friday are sunny. Lows will be in the upper 30s as cold, unstable air dominates the local weather for the next 10 days.

The odds for intermittent storms throughout the week are 50-50 but are likely to ensure the best white Christmas in several years. And snow is the greatest gift the local mountains could ask for, where all that snow is like money in the water bank and cross-country skiers and snowshoers can dust off their gear and hit the trails.   

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