Farmers of crops and commodities will assess impacts from the weekend storms, including:

• Almonds — Storms hit just as almond trees were blooming. Bees that pollinate almond blossoms don’t fly in the rain and prefer temperatures higher than 55 degrees. In addition, a number of almond trees were blown down by strong winds during the weekend.

• Berries — Rains delayed strawberry harvest along the Central and Southern California coast. Production may be temporarily reduced as farmers wait for waterlogged fields to dry and discard rain-damaged berries.

• Dairy farms — Several dairy farms located near the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers needed to move their animals to higher ground as river levels rose. Other farmers are watching river levels carefully and preparing to move their animals if needed.

• Field crops — Fall-planted grain crops that have germinated could take on too much water, which could ultimately reduce yields. Hay fields have also flooded. Soggy or flooded fields will delay planting for a number of crops.

• Grapes — Vineyards in some grape-growing regions have been flooded. Farmers say that could leave vines vulnerable to root-rot damage if they remain flooded for too long.

• Vegetables — Rains and muddy fields slowed vegetable harvest in Southern California and delayed planting in Salinas Valley. Rain generally benefited vegetable crops in the Imperial Valley.

• Walnuts — Flooded orchards that remain waterlogged for too long could be vulnerable to root diseases that can kill trees.

Sprinkles, drizzles and occasional spells of heavy rain continued soaking soggy watersheds, hillsides and cliffs in the Mother Lode this week, unleashing flooding and rockfall that prompted road closures in Columbia and Sonora, and contributing to a wastewater treatment plant overflow of more than 220,000 gallons into Twain Harte Creek, which feeds Sullivan Creek and Phoenix Lake.

Tuesday’s weather events coincided with a Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors declaration of local emergency due to existing and anticipated damages caused by severe weather and flooding.

Inflow from high reaches of the Tuolumne River watershed pushed Don Pedro Reservoir’s level to 828.8 feet above sea level as of 4 p.m. Tuesday and it was still rising, a Turlock Irrigation District spokesman said. The reservoir was 98 percent full and Don Pedro operators were still using one of three controlled spillway gates to release about 16,000 cubic feet per second downriver.

Rain and snow showers with patchy fog are possible today and tonight with clearing weather by Thursday afternoon. A flood warning remains in effect for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties until 4 p.m. Thursday.

Wastewater spill

A failed valve at the Tuolumne Utilities District wastewater treatment plant in Twain Harte caused sewage to be discharged to two drying beds which filled, overflowed to an onsite pond, and in turn released partially treated effluent to Twain Harte Creek, according to a TUD statement distributed at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The problem was discovered by TUD staff Monday, and they informed the California Office of Emergency Services in accordance with California waste discharge regulations. They stopped the discharge Monday.

Tuolumne Utilities District staff estimate that as much as 222,000 gallons or 0.68 acre feet of effluent discharged to Twain Harte Creek over a 24-hour period.

Water samples have been taken from both creeks and from Phoenix Lake. Preliminary test results were expected late Tuesday. Confirming results are expected today.

“The incident occurred during inclement weather that produced extraordinarily high stream flows down Sullivan Creek,” TUD staff said in the Tuesday statement.

As a result of the effluent overflow, TUD is now producing water at the Sonora Water Treatment Plant with water solely from the Tuolumne Main Canal, which was not affected by the discharge. Known as the Phoenix Lake By-pass, this infrastructure element feeds water directly from the Tuolumne Main Canal by way of the Phoenix Penstock. Water is diverted from the piped penstock to the by-pass line and then to the Sonora Water Treatment Plant.

“Based on its treatment regimen and actions taken to assure water quality, TUD is confident that the water produced by the Sonora Water Treatment Plant is safe to drink,” TUD staff said. “The Big Hill, Cedar Ridge, Columbia, Crystal Falls, Monte Grande, Ponderosa, Scenic View, Tuolumne, and Lakewood water treatment plants are not supplied with water from Phoenix Lake.”

The wastewater treatment plant in Twain Harte is a TUD facility and is not associated with Twain Harte Community Services District, Abby Parcon, human resources director for Tuolumne Utilities District, said Tuesday afternoon. TUD is investigating the cause of the valve failure.

Don Pedro

The level at Don Pedro as of 4 p.m. Tuesday was less than 1.5 from reaching the reservoir’s full capacity at 830 feet elevation, and it was still rising, said Brandon McMillan of Turlock Irrigation District. But there was hope that Don Pedro would not reach or exceed 100 percent capacity.

“Our forecasts show the reservoir will level off soon and begin dropping,” McMillan said in a phone interview.

Stream gauge and weather data updated at 2 p.m. Tuesday showed the Tuolumne River was 2.4 feet above flood stage at the 9th Street Bridge in downtown Modesto. It was expected to rise to 3.5 feet above flood stage and remain there through at least early Sunday.

Turlock Irrigation District staff decided to open one of Don Pedro’s three controlled spillway gates at 3 p.m. Monday due to fears that waters flowing into the state’s sixth-largest reservoir could rise above the 831-foot elevation emergency spillway, resulting in uncontrolled releases and increased flood dangers downriver in Stanislaus County.

Monday was the first time Don Pedro operators used the controlled spillway since devastating floods of January 1997. Water is also being released from the Don Pedro power plant at the base of the dam.

Turlock ID staff continued to monitor use of a single controlled spillway gate Tuesday, McMillan said. They were working with people from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services.

Staff with Turlock ID continued to advise landowners, growers and people living along the Tuolumne River to take necessary steps to protect property and livestock as river levels will rise quickly at times.

A section of Bonds Flat Road below the controlled spillway, which was torn out by uncontrolled releases in January 1997, was removed by Turlock ID workers and contractors on Monday before water was released.

That road closure will remain in effect until late spring or summer, when the wet season is over, Turlock ID staff said. The closure this week is from Fleming Meadows to Blue Oaks, to ensure the safety of the public and spillway operations. The reservoir is closed for boaters during the use of controlled spillway gates.

Splish splash

Showers and heavier rains fell at times Tuesday, contributing to traffic flow problems.

Workers closed Parrotts Ferry Road in Columbia on Tuesday due to flooding near the Day-O Espresso, snarling traffic on Springfield Road and other alternate routes between Columbia and Sonora.

“Every time it rains it gets really close to the road,” Casey Bailey, an employee at the Day-O, said Tuesday afternoon. “Yesterday was when it started coming onto the road.”

Before workers closed the road in both directions, motorists headed toward Columbia College and Columbia Historic State Park had to splash through water several inches deep in places, or cross over the center stripe and drive in the opposing traffic lane.

Three ducks swam in the runoff pond next to the roadway.

Rocks and boulders

More rocks and boulders fell Tuesday morning from the crumbling cliff above Stockton Road, across from the Community Thrift Shop and Mother Lode Hydroponics and Organics. The road was closed in both directions through Tuesday afternoon.

Kathy Styre, co-owner of Community Thrift Shop, said she heard rocks and boulders hit the road and shoulder just before she opened her business at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“It was loud when they came down,” Styre said. “It looked like at least two boulders were car-size.”

Eli Loughmiller with Mother Lode Hydroponics and Organics said Tuesday was the first time he could remember the road being closed in both directions for rockfall. He said he’s been at the location on Stockton Road the past six years.

Workers using heavy equipment outfitted with plows and scoops removed 16 cubic yards of material from the rockfall area on and next to the road, Steve Welch, a Caltrans supervisor, said at the closure. That worked out to four dumptruck loads from the latest rockfall at that spot.

There are still more loose rocks and boulders perched and ready to fall from the unstable, fractured rock and dirt slope. Welch said workers plan to put K-rail concrete barriers in along the roadside next to the cliff, in an effort to keep some of the falling rock off the road.

Other areas

In Calaveras County, Pettinger Road was closed Tuesday at Messing Road and Highway 12 in the Valley Springs area, Sharon Torrence with Calaveras County said.

“Many roads are experiencing flooding and mud slides,” Torrence said.

A slide Tuesday morning prompted closure of Highway 41, the Wawona Road, outside Yosemite National Park to Fish Camp. California Highway Patrol personnel said the slide was getting worse before noon. Caltrans said the road may remain closed until March 10.

The 41 closure on one of three primary winter routes to Yosemite will force more traffic onto Highways 140 and 120.

Staff with the California Farm Bureau Federation on Tuesday said strong storms during the weekend flooded farm fields, caused several dairy farmers to relocate their animals, and added more water to already overtaxed irrigation systems, among other impacts for the state’s farmers and ranchers.

“In the long term, the surge of storms should bring an improved water outlook,” said Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau Federation president. “But it has definitely brought worries to farmers and ranchers whose land is inundated or whose crops may be at risk. We remain hopeful that weather in coming days will minimize any problems.”

Overnight lows in the Sonora area and along Highway 49 are expected to reach freezing tonight and dip to 30 degrees Thursday night. Friday is expected to be mainly sunny, with a daytime high around 48. Chances of showers are expected to persist through the weekend and become more likely as Monday approaches.