Hundreds of people with homes and businesses in the Mother Lode remained without power for a third day Thursday as residents, schools, road workers, law enforcement and utility crews continued recovering from this week’s storm in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, and preparing for two more cold winter storms coming Friday through Sunday or Monday.
A winter storm watch has been issued for 4 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Central Sierra, and the watch area includes Murphys, Sonora and other towns in the Mother Lode foothills. Overnight lows in the Sonora area are expected to drop to 31 degrees and colder by early Friday.
As of Thursday afternoon, power had been restored to all PG&E customers in Cold Springs, Strawberry, Long Barn and Jamestown, according to PG&E information shared with Tuolumne County officials.
More than 1,700 PG&E customers remained without power in the Sonora area, Twain Harte, the town of Tuolumne, Soulsbyville, Columbia and east of Groveland as of Thursday afternoon. More than 900 remained without power between Mokelumne Hill, Glencoe, Wilseyville, Rail Road Flat, West Point, Sheep Ranch and Mountain Ranch, according to PG&E.
More freezing temperatures
Due to continued power outages in Tuolumne County, a warming center in Mi-Wuk Village for people without electricity and for homeless individuals will remain open Thursday night, Tuolumne County Office of Emergency Services staff said.
The warming center is at the Word of Life Fellowship, 24640 Highway 108 in Mi-Wuk Village. Beds will be available for people to sleep overnight.
Two people who lost power at their home stayed there last night, said Cyndi Kirk, office manager for Word of Life Fellowship.
“They were desperate,” Kirk said. “They were trying to stay in a 40-degree house. They were unable to get out. Their car was socked in. They were trapped in their home and needed an escort to get here.”
The Word of Life Fellowship warming center is in a heated building with radiant heat coming off the floor, Kirk said. The American Red Cross has set up cots and blankets for more people. Anyone with questions can try to call Kirk at (209) 586-7005.
The warming center that was at Discover Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sonora closed Thursday morning. The warming center in Mi-Wuk Village is expected to close at 8 a.m. Friday.
Some people who went without power for 48 hours or more got their power back about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, said Ryan Campbell, supervisor for Tuolumne County District 2. Many people in Crystal Falls and Phoenix Lake were without power from 2 a.m. Tuesday to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
A PG&E outage map Thursday afternoon still showed hundreds of customers without power in the Phoenix Lake area and in the town of Tuolumne.
PG&E crews trying to restore electric services in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties Thursday were still trying to gain safe access to some work locations in heavy snow, Denny Boyles, a PG&E spokesperson, said Thursday.
Boyles said crews hoped to have most Tuolumne County customers restored by Thursday evening, and the rest restored by 10 p.m. Friday.
Another storm system is expected to arrive Friday morning and there will be potential for more storm-related outages Saturday, especially in the utility’s Yosemite and Stockton divisions, Boyles said.
Improving road conditions
As low-altitude pockets of snow and ice continued melting Thursday, road conditions improved and fewer schools were closed in Tuolumne County. Three campuses remained closed, Tuolumne County sheriff’s staff said. Gold Rush Charter School plans to remain closed the rest of this week due to power outages and lack of plowing. Curtis Creek Elementary remained closed due to power outages. Belleview Elementary was also closed.
More than half of Tuolumne County schools, from Columbia to Twain Harte, Groveland and Don Pedro, had delayed openings Thursday. About one-third of Tuolumne County schools were open. All schools in Calaveras County were open Thursday.
As of 12:15 p.m. Thursday, power had been restored at Columbia College. and administrators there were planning to resume classes at the main campus on Friday, according to alerts sent out by the school’s emergency notification service. Columbia College administrators plan to have regular operating hours for all departments.
Wards Ferry Road, which was closed earlier Thursday for debris removal from Deer Creek Bridge to Big Oak Flat and Groveland, and then from Powell Ranch Road to Thiel Road, is open again for the time-being, Tuolumne County Roads Division staff announced Thursday afternoon.
At 11:16 a.m. Thursday, California Highway Patrol personnel were responding to a traffic crash reported near Confidence Road and Forest Vista Drive south of Highway 108. At 11:01 a.m., Tuolumne County sheriff’s staff reported at crash at Upper Mono Way and Highway 108 involving a white Ford F-350 and a green Toyota Tacoma. At 9:48 a.m., defective traffic signals and traffic backing up were reported at Soulsbyville Road and Highway 108, according to California Highway Patrol staff based in Jamestown.
More cold rain and snow
Forecasters in Sacramento say they have high confidence in their predictions for more precipitation Friday through Sunday, including new snow levels down to the upper foothills.
The first system Friday to Saturday morning could bring 1 to 2 inches of rain to the Sonora area and Yosemite, and snow levels down to 2,500 feet elevations. The second system is expected by Saturday evening, with heavier precipitation and snow levels between 2,000 and 1,000 feet on Sunday, and showers that could linger into Monday.
Winds gusting to 50 miles per hour coupled with heavy snow could result in whiteout conditions in some parts of the Central Sierra on Saturday night and Sunday, forecasters in Sacramento said. Snow levels will likely be low enough to bring accumulations into the upper foothills with each of the two storms. Snow levels could come down into the lower foothills Sunday night into Monday.
Overnight lows for the Sonora area are expected to dip below freezing again by early Friday, then 37 degrees early Saturday, 38 degrees early Sunday, then plunge to 29 degrees by late Sunday or early Monday.
As of Wednesday this week, the Mother Lode’s principal watersheds, including the Stanislaus River and Tuolumne River basins, had received 25.6 inches of precipitation since the current water year started Oct. 1. That’s 117 percent of average for the date Feb. 6. A state Department of Water Resources five-station index includes Calaveras Big Trees and Hetch Hetchy.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.