FRESNO, Calif. - A strong winter storm moved into the region producing widespread rain, strong wind, and heavy mountain snow for much of California.
Widespread rainfall across the Valley as storm rolls through
In the Central Valley many cities already saw up to 0.25" of rain since midnight Thursday and more is expected through the rest of the week. Showers will continue off and on for much of the day before tapering off in the evening.
TRACK THE STORM WITH STORMWARN 30 RADAR
Rain will be more scattered on Friday but still create additional accumulation across the Valley floor. The foothill areas are expected to see up to 2" of rain by the end of the week with some snow reaching lower elevations starting late Friday into early Saturday.
Steady snow and gusty winds will reduce visibility and create dangerous to nearly impossible traveling conditions across the Sierra. Wind could gust up to 75 mph over higher elevations. It is because of these conditions that prompted the National Weather Service in Hanford to issue a winter storm warning for elevations above 4,000 feet. This warning is expected to last until 10:00 am Saturday.
Rain and snow will come to an end by the second half of the weekend with warmer temperatures arriving next week.
Strong winter storm brings widespread rainfall across the Valley
The rainfall season for 2016-2017 was one of the wettest on record and this year could be one of the driest unless things turn around in March. One of the biggest winter storms of the year is moving in just a few weeks before spring starts on the calendar.
The Fresno area is only at about 25 percent of the average for the rainfall season. And while the levels at Millerton Lake and Pine Flat Reservoir look good, both are below average.
Duane Stroup is with Bureau of Reclamation that oversees the water flow at Friant Dam.
He says Millerton Lake is at 63 percent of the norm. Last year, water releases started in early January and ended in July. Stroup doesn't expect any flood control releases this year.
"We never know what mother nature is going to drop on us but know at this point the snowpack and water supply at such we do not expect to release water," Stroup said.
Pine Flat Reservoir capacity is at 52 percent of the average. Water release from the dam last summer overflowed the Kings River at the Kings River Country Club creating a flood but this year conditions are dry.
Randy Mcfarland of the Kings River Water Association says another four to six storms with major rainfall are needed to fill the river and lake again.
And a year with record rainfall followed by a dry year is not that unusual.
A lot of people have hopes of a miracle March, referring to the record rainfall of March 1991. That's when Fresno received over seven inches of rain.
CHECK CHAIN CONTROLS AND WINTER DRIVING ALERTS
The sight of snow falling in Shaver Lake means a big boost to the local economy.
4 lane WX
The sight of snow falling in Shaver Lake means a big boost to the local economy. Following a dry winter, businesses are hoping to cash in on what's expected to be a busy weekend -- full of tourists looking for a hot meal or rental equipment on their way into China Peak.
Steady rain and snow continued to fall into the night Thursday, creating a ghost town near Cressman's, along Highway 168 in Fresno County.
But the Mounts, who live up in Meadow Lakes, braved the inclement weather. They just left a Lion's Club meeting in Shaver Lake and were forced to pull over to ensure a safe trip home.
John Mount says, for the most part, their travel has been smooth, and he credits that to the crews out on the road.
Dozens of snow plows have been working around the clock to clear the roadways. Caltrans is not the only agency busy -- CHP is also working hard, stopping drivers to make sure they have chains or at least 4-wheel drive.
In the meantime, local businesses are thrilled to see this wintry mix. Especially Pub and Grub, where business has been down 65 percent because of the lack of snow.
A moment to relish in because most businesses know it could be days, possibly weeks before another big storm pushes through.
Extra staff has been called in there to handle the influx of visitors looking to play in the snow this weekend.
A dark and gray abyss swallowed the Valley Thursday night. The winds destroying delicate blossoms, the rain pummeling windshield wipers, the cold seeping in through bundled jackets. The North Valley saw the heaviest rainfall, more than three-quarters of an inch.
The cold and wet misery is expected to last for two more days but families say they can't afford to complain. This isn't the first storm of the year, but it is the largest. And drivers felt the treacherous conditions on the road.
One by one, CHP officers were diverted to freeways for spinouts, collisions, and debris.
"Even though traffic was slow people were still acting stupid, like that's not the way to go, they got kids and all that," Fernando Quintero said.
In Merced, the storm overwhelmed sewer systems, water pooled at intersections, drivers had to pick and choose where to drive.
It's not just the roads the rain is tearing up as farmers eagerly wait to tally rain totals Friday, they will also have to face the brutality of the winds and what they have done to their crop.