Storm could bring showers, thunderstorms
With a snowpack dwindling every day, the possibility of this week’s rain and snow is being greatly welcomed.
The National Weather Service is calling for a chance of rain Thursday night through Friday night, but not much on the Valley floor is expected.
“We’ll probably get some precipitation later this week,” said NWS meteorologist Kevin Dufrey Tuesday. However, less than half of an inch is predicted.
For the season — since July 1 — only 3.33 inches of rain has fallen in Porterville, said local weather observer Greg Chadwell. Only 0.75 of an inch fell in January, about 1.40 inches below average for the month.
“The good news is we have as much water supply as last year, so we’ll get by,” said Ron Jacobsma, general manager for Friant Water Users Authority. “But, we keep dipping into our groundwater reserve.”
The lack of rainfall and unseasonably warm temperatures — it was 64 degrees Tuesday — has forced many farmers to pump water from the ground to irrigate their crops.
The warm temperatures have created another problem with the incoming storm. Some trees have begun to bud and the storm is expected to drop temperatures into the upper-20s in some areas.
Colder temps expected to set in over weekend
“It doesn’t look really critically cold until Saturday night, Sunday morning,” said Dufrey.
“If it gets down below 32, it could become critical,” for some orchards, he said.
The unseasonably cold air mass will create conditions ripe for thunderstorms, said Dufrey. Those would occur on Friday if they do form. The weather service is cautioning the storms could produce high winds, hail and even funnel clouds.
Also, snow levels could dip as low as 2,500 feet, including over the Grapevine. Dufrey did say the storm could produce a good amount of snow in the higher elevations.
After the storm, Dufrey said, it appears dry and above-normal temperatures will return.
Storms needed soon to avoid pumping water
Jacobsma said there is still time to get more precipitation, but we are getting to the end of the rainy season.
Dufrey said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for below-average precipitation for the next three months in the Golden State, but Jacobsma is optimistic.
“All it takes is a couple of big storms,” he said.
Rainfall is ahead of last year just slightly, but more has fallen in the critical months of November through January. February and March are historically wet, with average rainfall in Porterville 1.99 inches in February and 2.33 inches in March. January last year was bone dry.
Snowfall is also very important, and actually the area is better off in snowfall than it is in rainfall. Last week’s snow survey found a depth of 26.7 inches of snow at Quaking Aspen, about average for the first of February.
Jacobsma said the Interior Department will not make its first water delivery projection until later this month, but right now they are looking at about 40 or 50 percent of average delivery, or about 500,000 acre feet of water.
“We’re out of the critical stage, but not where we want to be,” he said of that possible projection. On average, Friant delivers 1.2 million acre feet of water to farmers.
And, he pointed out, with it being so dry, many crops are thirsty and trees are coming out of dormancy beginning to need water and that means more pumping.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Success Lake held 16,885 acre feet of water.