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Heavy Rains Trigger Valley Flood Warning. A Lot More Coming.



Fresno received more than an inch of rain Tuesday and is girding for more through early next week. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)
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Following heavy rains throughout the region, the National Weather Service issued a Flood Watch for Central California shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“Heavy rain after numerous storm systems the last few weeks will lead to increased chances of areal flooding in much of Central California. Be cautious when driving, watch for any flood statements, and avoid traveling into the mountains,” the NWS office in Hanford said in a tweet.

The NWS also issued a Winter Storm Watch through 4 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Heavy snow is predicted for the mountains and travel will be difficult to near impossible.

“All travel is discouraged,” the weather service said.

A new storm is expected in Northern California late Wednesday and then it will move south into the San Joaquin Valley. The Fresno area can expect multiple rounds of rain through the rest of the week and into next week, NWS said.

According to NWS data, Fresno received more than 1 inch of rain on Tuesday, pushing its total since Oct. 1 to 4.32 inches. That is 146% of “normal” for the date. Last year at this time, the city had received 4.99 inches of rain. NWS records indicate that Fresno receives an average of 10.99 inches of rain annually between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 of the following year.

Forecast Includes an Atmospheric River

A new system will drop Sierra snow levels to as low as 4,000 feet early Thursday and bring up to a half inch of rain to the Valley floor, the NWS says.

Friday’s forecast calls for likely rain before 10 a.m. Friday. Then another atmospheric river will pound Fresno and surrounding communities with heavy rain Friday night through Saturday night. The rain total over that period could total nearly two inches.

Sierra Snowpack

According to NOAA, these are the snowpack depths for the following locations: Tioga Pass, 64.56 inches; Tuolumne Meadows, 57.36 inches; Tamarack Summit, 39.3 inches; and Huntington Lake, 40 inches.

The snow water equivalent statewide is 13.3 inches, which is 162% of normal for the date and 51% of the April 1 average for the following year.

The Southern Sierra also has a snow water equivalent of 13.3 inches following Tuesday’s storm. That is 193% of normal and 59% of the April 1 average for the region.

Snow water equivalent measures the amount of liquid water in the snow. If you took a height of snow and melted it, the height of the water created is SWE. For example, if 10 inches of snow falls at 10% density, then there would be 1 inch of SWE.

As encouraging as the early season precipitation has been, experts are cautious about predicting an end to California’s three-year drought. Last winter had a similar start and then turned extraordinarily dry from January through March.

Local Ski Report

China Peak reports that it has received 16 to 28 inches of snow over the past 24 hours, bringing its season total to 134 inches.

The ski resort is open daily through Tuesday, Jan. 3. It will close the following day and then operate on a Thursday-through Monday schedule for the rest of the season. The one exception is that it will be open Tuesday, Feb. 21. China Peak anticipates it will close for the season on April 16.

Chains or four-wheel drive vehicles are required on Highway 168 to the resort. Access Caltrans travel info at this link or call 1-800-427-7623.

This is the link to’s California skiing report.

China Peak is open daily through Tuesday, Jan. 3. It will close the following day and then operate on a Thursday-through Monday schedule for the rest of the season. (

Rockslide Closes Road Into Yosemite

El Portal Road, which is the continuation of Highway 140 into Yosemite Valley from El Portal, is closed due to a significant rockfall. Access to Yosemite Valley is still possible via Hwy 41/Wawona Road and Hwy 120/Big Oak Flat Road. Tire chains may be required.

Tioga Road, which is the continuation of Highway 120 through the park, and Glacier Point Road are closed for the season due to snow. They usually reopen in late May or June.

Reservoir Report

Access all of the daily water levels and historical comparisons for California’s reservoirs at this link.

The graphic below shows the water supply at selected major California reservoirs.


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email