A moisture-laden storm arriving Thursday with heavy rains could create localized flooding on the Valley floor and at elevations up to 4,000 feet in the foothills.
The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the region starting at 4 p.m. and continuing until 10 a.m. Sunday.
Highway 168, which was closed last week due to a rockslide, reopened to limited traffic on Wednesday morning. Caltrans said that only residents, homeowners, and ski resort visitors should plan to use the highway for now. Sno-parks along Highway 168 remain closed.
— GV Wire • News (@GVWire) March 8, 2023
But it’s not clear how long the highway may remain open if heavy rains from the upcoming storms cause more boulders to break loose and tumble onto the road. Fresno County officials, the CHP, and Caltrans will be keeping a close eye on the highway, particularly on the Four Lane area where the last rockfall occurred.
The National Weather Service is continuing to forecast 2 to 3 inches of rain for Fresno and other Valley communities, and as much as 8 inches at Shaver Lake and other mountain communities, meteorologist Dan Harty said Wednesday.
Red Cross Evacuation Center in Sanger
The Fresno County Office of Emergency Services is working with the Red Cross to open a shelter to assist residents who wish to evacuate. The shelter will be at the Sanger Community Center, 730 Recreation Ave. and will open as of 3 p.m. on Thursday.
The shelter originally was to be at Reedley College, but concerns about Kings River flooding prompted officials to switch to Sanger.
Residents are asked to bring only essentials such as medication, clothes, and toiletries. Pets that can be kenneled are allowed. The shelter is ADA-compliant and will have restrooms and showers.
The Red Cross says it will provide cots, blankets, pillows, and a few meals. The shelter will be open until evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted.
Fresno County’s website includes links to emergency services, updates, and where to find sandbags and sand.
National Park Closures
Yosemite National Park, which has been impacted by deep snow, will remain closed through the weekend and possibly beyond, the park said Tuesday in a tweet.
Yosemite will remain closed through Sunday, March 12—possibly longer. Reopening on March 13 is a best-case scenario. Another storm system is forecast at the end of the week that could result in further impacts to the park. The park will provide an update early next week.
— Yosemite National Park (@YosemiteNPS) March 7, 2023
Sequoia National Park will close its entrance station at 6 p.m. Thursday because of the oncoming storm’s potential hazards. Kings Canyon National Park also may close due to the storm.
Another storm is predicted to bring major warmer precipitation starting Thursday evening. Serious flood potential. The Sequoia NP entrance station will close Thursday 3/9 at 6pm. Other closures may occur in Kings Canyon NP depending upon how the weather system unfolds. Stay safe! pic.twitter.com/GkWyJWj0WH
— Sequoia & Kings Cyn (@SequoiaKingsNPS) March 8, 2023
Thursday’s storm will arrive in the afternoon and will be accompanied by gusty winds that could reach 30 to 35 mph in the Valley and 45 mph in the mountains, Harty said.
The storm is expected to intensify overnight Thursday and into Friday, he said.
So if you’re planning to put out sandbags, you’ll want to do it before you head to bed Thursday night.
This simulated radar loop from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh computer model depicts precipitation overspreading Central California ahead of a strong storm system late Thursday afternoon. Precipitation will be heavy at times Thursday evening through Friday night. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/PKE7wyquTk
— NWS Hanford (@NWSHanford) March 8, 2023
Some showers could continue into Saturday, and there might be some clearing on Sunday before the arrival Monday of a new storm. Harty said it’s not clear yet whether that storm will be as powerful as Thursday’s, which was described on Tuesday by another National Weather Service meteorologist as “unprecedented.”
Flooding is a big concern from Thursday’s storm, but not the only one. The ground, already saturated by recent storms, will be even more waterlogged and could give way to rockslides and mudslides in the mountains and foothills, and trees and utility poles could topple over.
Snow levels will start at 6,000 feet but then rise to 8,000 to 9,000 feet before lowering on Saturday to 7,000 feet, Harty said.
While rainfall will melt snow at lower elevations, contributing to the storm runoff, snow at higher elevations should absorb the rain, he said.
Valley Counties, Cities Urge Residents to Be Ready for Storm
Tulare County officials said Wednesday that they are closely monitoring the forecast for the upcoming storm, as well as more storms expected next week.
Sandbags are available at many locations in Tulare County. A map of the locations is at this link.
Officials also said that foothill and mountain residents who could be isolated by snow or bridge closures should:
- Stock up on several days’ worth of food, water, medications, and other necessary supplies;
- Refill home propane tanks and/or secure adequate firewood for heating;
- Refill primary and backup fuel supplies for generators and vehicles;
- Charge backup batteries for electronic devices;
- Sandbag vulnerable structures in low-lying areas and near creeks, streams, rivers, canals, or other waterways;
- Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle with food, water, and blankets in case you become stranded;
- And, don’t leave your vehicle if you are stranded in the snow.
City officials say they are clearing storm drains, beefing up creeks banks, and making other preparations ahead of the storm.
Merced also has reactivated its Storm Information Webpage to provide information and updates about local impacts, including flood caution and preparedness information, evacuation warnings, and orders, if necessary. Sandbag supply updates and other storm-related information will be posted there.
Correction: #CAWx #Merced The Merced River near Stevinson is forecast to peak at 74 feet Saturday night which is about flood stage. Flood stage for the Merced River at Stevinson is 71 feet which will be exceeded Friday night. #TurnAroundDontDrown. pic.twitter.com/seocCIWcm9
— NWS Hanford (@NWSHanford) March 8, 2023
Madera County Evacuation Warning
PG&E Mobilizes for Storm
PG&E officials said Wednesday that the utility is mobilizing personnel ahead of the storm.
“The incoming adverse weather could result in trees, limbs, and other debris falling into powerlines, damaging equipment, and interrupting electric service,” PG&E said in a news release.
Blocked access could lead to longer power outages, said Scott Stenfel, PG&E’s director of meteorology and fire science.
“The wind combined with heavy rain and flooding risks can lead to access issues for our crews if trees fail and roadways flood.”
Customers can view real-time outage information at PG&E’s online outage center and search by a specific address, city, or county. This site has been updated to include support in 16 languages.
Additionally, customers can sign up for outage notifications by text, email, or phone. PG&E will let customers know the cause of an outage, when crews are on their way, the estimated restoration time, and when power has been restored.
(GV Wire’s Bill McEwen contributed to this story.)