The first significant atmospheric river storm of 2018 brought steady rain Monday to Mother Lode foothill towns like Sonora and Angels Camp, with slick roads and traffic crashes at places like O'Byrnes Ferry Road and Little Sweden, as well as snow at higher elevations like Dodge Ridge and Bear Valley.
The storm that began early Monday was expected to bring 2 to 3 inches of rain through today with more showers possibly into this evening and tonight.
The system brought mild, unwintery temperatures to Highway 49 towns, with daytime highs and overnight lows in the high 40s to low 50s. It was much colder high in the mountains, with near-freezing and below-freezing temperatures at places like Sonora Pass, where it was expected to be in the high 20s early today, and Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, where it was expected to be in the low 20s before sunrise.
The storm is also bringing snow to mountain resorts, including Bear Valley and Dodge Ridge, with snow levels down to 7,300 feet Monday morning, but neither ski area was open.
Combined storms since New Years Day had boosted precipitation for the current water year from 5 to 6 inches in the past week as of Monday morning.
From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., CHP Sonora personnel and other first responders were called out to at least four crash scenes and traffic incidents.
One involved a silver Chevrolet Impala and a black Mercedes Benz about 100 yards west of the bridge on O’Byrnes Ferry Road at 9:14 a.m. At the same time up at Little Sweden on Highway 108, a vehicle was reported off the road and stuck in a ditch.
Less than 20 minutes later, a Ford Bronco and a Pontiac Vibe crashed on Highway 49 between Sonora and Columbia. One of the vehicles caught fire, somebody used a fire extinguisher, and the crash backed up traffic.
At 11:05 a.m., another vehicle was reported off the road at O’Byrnes Ferry Road and Green Springs Run near Tulloch Gulch.
In downtown Sonora, Matthew Drake with the U.S. Postal Service covered his wheeled mail carrier with plastic and worked at times under awnings to keep steady rain out of the letters and packages he was delivering shortly after noon Monday.
Gutter pipes gushed, leaky spots appeared and let off steady drip-drip-drips, and rushing water hissed and hurled itself in curbside low spots along North Washington Street.
People with umbrellas, men and women, stepped gingerly at marked crosswalks to make their away across the rain-streaked asphalt of North Washington in front of vigilant motorists with wipers slip-slapping back and forth across their windshields.
At New Melones, two small robins with their feathers fluffed perched in the rain-soaked top of a tree overlooking the Golden State’s fourth-largest water storage reservoir, which was holding more than 1.9 million acre-feet at 83 percent capacity as of Monday.
Lower down at a hand launch area across from Stevenot Bridge, three floating outhouses were the only vessels visible on the rain-speckled surface of the manmade lake.
Higher elevations of east Calaveras County and northeast Tuolumne County were included in a winter weather advisory through from 4 a.m. today to 10 p.m. tonight. Southeast Tuolumne County, including the north half of Yosemite, was included in a winter storm warning through 7 p.m. tonight.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.