Storm of the decade?

If forecasts are correct, the Mother Lode could get 7.5 to 10 inches of rain Saturday to Monday

By Guy McCarthy, The Union Democrat, @GuyMcCarthy

Next meeting on five-year strategic plan

In addition to searching for a new CEO, the Mother Lode Fair Board of Directors is also in the process of developing a five-year strategic plan.

The board hopes more people will attend the next meeting about the plan scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 11, than did the first meeting on Nov. 29.

“It’s extremely important that the community attend on Jan. 11 and provide their feedback for the future of our fairgrounds,” said Board President Dan Brown in a written statement. “Fairgrounds in California that are successful enjoy tremendous public support.”

At the first meeting, five committees were formed to look at various aspects of the plan and come up with ways to accomplish each goal.

The five major goals focus on improving financial sustainability, create a fundraising campaign, enhance and grow the volunteer program, enhance and grow the sponsorship program, and establish a marketing, public relations and communications plan.

The committees met separately after the first meeting to come up with objectives that are scheduled to be presented Jan. 11. The meeting will be held in the Creekside building of the fairgrounds at 220 Southgate Drive in Sonora.

Forecasters are advising people in the Sierra Nevada and its foothill communities to prepare for significant rain and flooding this weekend and early next week.

Light rain and showers are expected to continue today and tonight in the Mother Lode foothills, and a backcountry avalanche warning remained in effect through 7 a.m. this morning as snowfall continued to build up on Central Sierra slopes.

Predictions for significant rainfall in Yosemite Valley, well above flood stage on the Merced River, could prompt authorities to close the park in the next few days, says Jamie Richards of the National Park Service. People planning trips to the park, beginning Thursday, should make alternate plans if the park does close.

Bear Valley Mountain received more than 2 feet of snow from Sunday to 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, and more snow kept falling. The backcountry avalanche warning was in effect from Yuba Pass south to Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4.

A brief break in the wetness is expected late tonight with chances of sunshine Friday before the leading edge of a slow-moving atmospheric river storm begins moving over Calaveras and Tuolumne counties Friday night and Saturday through Monday.

Flooding is likely

Heavy rains are expected Sunday and Monday, and forecasters say Sonora could get 7.5 to 10 inches of rain Saturday to Monday, and Yosemite could get 10 to 15 inches over the same time period. Significant rainfall this weekend will lead to rising waters in streams, creeks and rivers, and some locations like the Merced River in Yosemite could rise above flood stage.

The Tuolumne River could approach flood levels in Modesto by Monday, according to the federal California Nevada River Forecast Center.

If forecasts are accurate, the Merced River could swell to more than double its flood stage and crest at more than 20 feet with discharge greater than 24,000 cubic feet per second -- a level approaching the Merced’s historical record high stage in January 1997, when parts of Yosemite Valley were under water.

“Things can change, when we’re this far out in the forecast,” Jim Mathews, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento, said Wednesday afternoon. “It all depends on how much rain falls.”

Underscoring the inexact science of flood forecasting, the National Weather Service cancelled a flood watch for San Andreas, Angels Camp, Sonora, Twain Harte and Groveland before noon Wednesday as light rain continued to fall over portions of the Central Sierra.

By Wednesday afternoon, focus was on this weekend’s atmospheric river storm, which has a target area including the Mother Lode and the rest of the Central Sierra, and what it could mean for public safety.

Some reservoirs near capacity

Forecasters were warning of potential flooding in low-lying areas of some foothill communities, as well as enhanced downstream river flooding if flood control releases become necessary on some Central Sierra reservoirs.

As of Wednesday afternoon, some Mother Lode reservoirs had plenty of room for extra runoff and others were approaching capacity. On the Mokelumne River, Camanche Reservoir was at 70 percent capacity and Pardee was at 90 percent.

On the Stanislaus River, Donnells Reservoir was at 44 percent capacity, Beardsley was at 71 percent, New Melones was holding less than 30 percent of its total capacity, and Tulloch was at 84 percent.

On the Tuolumne River high in Yosemite, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir was holding 88 percent capacity. Further downstream below Moccasin, the Don Pedro Reservoir was holding 75 percent of capacity.

On the Merced River below Yosemite National Park, McClure Reservoir was holding 44 percent of capacity, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Forecasters said rains this weekend could trigger mud flows and debris flows from any burn scar from fires in the past four years, including the 2015 Butte Fire and the 2013 Rim Fire. Rock slides and mud slides are also possible on many mountain roads, including Old Priest Grade and New Priest Grade.

Gusting winds this weekend could approach 30 miles per hour in some areas and gust to 60 mph on the highest, most exposed mountain ridges. Saturated soils could also contribute to downed trees and downed utility poles, leading to outages.

10-year to 25-year storm possible

Residents of the Mother Lode can expect this weekend’s precipitation to begin by mid-day Saturday and continue through Monday.

Snow levels this weekend are expected to begin around 4,000 feet elevation in the Central Sierra, rising to above 8,000 feet by Saturday night and dropping to pass levels by early Monday.

With soils already saturated from recent storms, some forecasters called the approaching atmospheric river capable of matching a 10-year to 25-storm event south of Interstate 80. That means in places precipitation and runoff could match totals unseen in the past decade or more.

Asked about sand and sandbags on Wednesday afternoon, Calaveras County spokesperson Sharon Torrence said all sandbag locations are stocked and open. They include:

• Arnold Maintenance Yard, 1119 Linebaugh Road

• Glencoe Maintenance Yard, 16151 Highway 26

• Jenny Lind Yard 11558 Milton Road

• Mountain Ranch Community Park

• Murphys Fire Station, 37 Jones St.

Chief Josh White with Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit says a pallet of filled sandbags is at the Corp yard on Mountain Ranch Road in San Andreas.

In Tuolumne County, Tracie Riggs, the county Office of Emergency Services coordinator, says sand has been available for the past month at the following locations:

• Columbia Airport: 10727 N. Airport Road

• Tuolumne: 18870 Birch St.

• Jamestown: 18188 Seventh Ave.

• Big Oak Flat: 11240 Wards Ferry Road

“Please keep in mind that while OES provides the sand we do not provide sandbags,” Riggs said. “Bags can be purchased at Lowe’s, OSH and Sonora Hardware.”

16082983
The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Saturday May 27, 2017

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Latest Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
Columbia College to offer free tuition for first year

05/24/2017

A three-year pilot program being launched by the Columbia College Foundation aims ... more

Man sentenced to six years in pot field shooting

05/24/2017

Jeremiah Barrett was sentenced to six years in prison and compelled to ... more

Authorities crack down on marijuana grows, arrest one

05/26/2017

Deputies in Calaveras County cracked down on three marijuana grows in separate ... more