FRESNO, California (KFSN) --We are in the midst of what could be one of the biggest storms to hit the Central Valley in years. There are flood watches in effect through Thursday for the Sierra and foothills below 7,000 feet. Snow level expected to be at 7,500 feet.
Westbound Highway 180 was down to one lane of traffic on Wednesday morning after the driver says his big rig hydroplaned, then jackknifed between the Van Ness exit and the Highway 99 interchange. The roadway has since reopened.
Cal Trans is working to keep the roadways safe -- staging as early as yesterday with snow plows, sand and rock moving equipment.
CHP officers say drivers need to prepare for rain, sleet, snow or fog. Make sure to check the windshield wipers are in good condition. If you're heading to the mountain areas, have tire chains available, and a strong battery -- the colder temperatures may need more amps to start a vehicle. The CHP also says to make sure you keep blankets, a flashlight, windshield scraper, water, and snacks in case you get stranded.
The Sierra snow pack was measured on Tuesday near Lake Tahoe. Surveyors say it was about half of normal for this time of year, which they call a good start. The snowpack is vital because it provides about a third of California's water by melting in the warmer months.
Alan Bryant owns a hardware store in Oakhurst. He says this storm has brought a boost to his business, with hundreds of people coming to buy supplies, like tarps, batteries, and flashlights.
"Felt like a Friday it was just those emergency supplies so much of that just everyone getting ready for the unknown," said Alan Bryant, True Value Home Center.
The store owner also tells us a generator is something people should consider renting or buying when preparing for a storm packing this much rain.
The incoming rain is a welcome sight to valley farmers and the timing couldn't be better. President Obama signed a historic water bill just a few weeks ago. It allows pumps to capture more water from the San Joaquin Delta during a storm.
This week's rainfall is the first major system to pass through since the legislation became law. The Westlands Water District relies heavily on water from the Delta. They're optimistic the rain will lead to more water in reservoirs.
For the past three years, the Westlands Water Distrcit says they've received little to no federal allocation. With the two wettest months approaching, they are hopeful that will change.
Stay with Action News and ABC30.com for more on this story.