New Storm Likely to Deliver an Inch of Rain to Fresno, High Winds on I-5 - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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New Storm Likely to Deliver an Inch of Rain to Fresno, High Winds on I-5



Satellite image of a mid-latitude cyclone off the West Coast that is directing an atmospheric river into California for a storm tonight through Friday, Feb. 2. (X/@US_Stormwatch)
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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 Hanford Rain/Snow Projections Feb.1 2024

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.

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.”

Kings Canyon Snowpack

Snow surveyor Lucas Marchese returns to the helicopter at Scenic Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park. (Kings River Water Association/Jennifer Gonzalez)

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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