After a run of unusually warm January temperatures in Fresno and surrounding communities, Mother Nature is expected to deliver heavy rain to the Valley floor, snow to the Sierra, and wind gusts up to 65 miles per hour along the I-5 corridor Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon.
And, according to the National Weather Service Hanford forecast, there should be a break in precipitation Friday night and Saturday before another atmospheric river brings more rain and snow lasting into early next week.
NWS Key Messages
Here are the key messages from the NWS:
- Damaging south wind gusts are expected along the Interstate 5 corridor through the Grapevine today and tonight. Strong, gusty south winds are anticipated in the Coastal Range and San
Joaquin Valley today and tonight.
- Major to extreme winter storm impacts in the Sierra Nevada above 5,000 feet this evening through Thursday evening due to snow amounts up to four feet.
- Excessive rainfall in the Sierra Nevada below 5,000 feet and adjacent foothills may cause flooding and mudslides this evening through Thursday afternoon.
- A few strong thunderstorms are possible in most of Central California on Thursday afternoon and Thursday evening.
Breathtaking satellite imagery of a stunning mid-latitude cyclone off the West Coast that will steer a significant atmospheric river into California tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/3hl49Wnq12
— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) January 30, 2024
Sierra Probabilities for 18 Inches or More of Snow
Here are the probabilities for 18 inches of snow or more in the Sierra from 10 p.m. this evening until 4 p.m. Friday:
Badger Pass Ski Area – 93%
Lodgepole – 90%
Huntington Lake – 89%
Wishon Lake – 86%
Tuolumne Meadows – 67%
Tioga Pass – 58%
City Probabilities for 1 Inch or More of Rain
The heaviest rainfall associated with the atmospheric river is expected tonight through Thursday afternoon. These are the probabilities of one inch or more of rain in the Valley from 10 o’clock tonight through 4 p.m. Friday:
Merced – 83%
Clovis – 75%
Madera – 71%
Fresno – 68%
Porterville – 67%
Visalia – 62%
Tulare – 56%
Hanford – 49%
Bakersfield – 35%
Statewide Snowpack Half of Normal
The coming storm will help California get back on track for the snowpack that supplies water to cities and growers.
The water content of California’s mountain snowpack was just over half of the normal average on Tuesday, a modest increase from Jan. 1 but still far below the usual, state officials said.
Electronic measurements statewide showed a snow water equivalent of 8.4 inches. That is 52% of the average to date, the California Department of Water Resources said in a statement.
“This year’s El Niño has delivered below average precipitation and an even smaller snowpack,” department director Karla Nemeth said. “Californians must prepare for all possible conditions during the remaining months of the rainy season.”
The results are markedly different from last winter, when a blitz of atmospheric rivers buried mountains in snow, swelled rivers, and filled reservoirs that had dwindled during years of drought.
Kings River Watershed Snowpack 37% of Normal
Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen says the snowpack water content is only about 6.6 inches, 37% of average for Feb. 1, and represents only 23% of what would be expected when snow conditions typically peak around April 1.
Snow depths averaged just 28 inches this year compared with 54 inches in an average winter. It’s all a far cry from snowpack conditions measured last year, as the Sierra Nevada was being slammed by one major snowstorm after another. Ultimately, the huge snowpack that kept mounting through March of 2023 melted into what became the Kings River’s seasonal runoff record.
“We have had quite a few storms since the water year began October 1 but have not generated much snow,” Haugen said. “We’re hoping the storms predicted to begin this week will turn things around. Otherwise, we may be headed for our fourth below-average water season in the past five years.”
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)