Rain may return this weekend

By Guy McCarthy, The Union Democrat, @GuyMcCarthy

More wet weather is expected this weekend and next week, with a system described as weak arriving in the Mother Lode today through Sunday.

Whether clouds will bring sprinkles, showers or steady downpours to the Central Sierra remains to be seen. Most precipitation through mid-week is expected to come as rain with snowfall likely at higher elevations.

Staff with Tuolumne Utilities District and Caltrans are taking forecasts into account and expect to cancel work next week on the Quartz-Stent water main extension outside Jamestown and on the Highway 120 bridge upgrades between Chinese Camp and Moccasin.

From San Andreas to Angels Camp, Columbia and Sonora, overnight lows are expected in the high 40s to low 50s through Tuesday, with cooler nighttime temperatures possible later next week.

Chain controls may be necessary as snow levels could drop from 7,000 feet Monday to 5,000 feet later in the week. Gusty winds could cause power outages in some areas and localized thunderstorms could bring heavier rains and hail in some areas, depending on system strength how far south the weather pattern tracks.

Forecasters describe the changing weather this weekend and early next week as unsettled. There’s potential for more storms through the end of next week.

A third phase of work on the James Roberts Memorial Bridge project, where Highway 120 crosses over Don Pedro Reservoir and the old Tuolumne River course, was expected to begin Monday. The work is going to be delayed one week because rain is forecast for much of next week, said Rick Estrada with Caltrans District 10 in Stockton.

Therefore there are no scheduled bridge closures this weekend through the morning of Monday, March 27. The $20.8 million project is still on a timetable to be completed in November, Estrada said Friday. One-way traffic controls will remain through the end of the project.

If approaching storm systems grow stronger and bring more precipitation than expected, there is still room in most major reservoirs in the Mother Lode’s primary watersheds.

As of Friday morning, Camanche and Pardee reservoirs on the Mokelumne River were holding 81 percent and 97 percent of capacity, respectively. New Hogan on the Calaveras River was holding 62 percent, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

On the Middle Fork Stanislaus River, Donnells held 87 percent, Beardsley held 81 percent, and New Melones held 71 percent of capacity. Elevation Friday morning at New Melones was 1,023.5 feet above sea level and rising, 140 feet higher than Jan. 1 and 160 feet higher than Oct. 1, when the current water year started.

In the Tuolumne River watershed, Cherry held 83 percent, Hetch Hetchy held 82 percent, and Don Pedro held 91 percent. McClure on the Merced River held 75 percent of capacity.

The Union Democrat
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