'Weak' storms predicted for Merced region

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comMarch 3, 2014 

Last week’s rain was significant, bringing a funnel cloud and thunderstorms to the Central Valley, but forecasters say it’s not a sign of things to come.

The storms that doused the region were something of an “anomaly,” according to meteorologist Jeff Barlow of the National Weather Service in Hanford.

Merced got 1.32 inches from the twin storm systems. Los Banos received 1.08 inches, Madera counted 1.01 inches and Fresno marked 1.11 inches.

“It is definitely a significant amount of rain,” Barlow said.

The higher elevations measured more with Mariposa at 2.4 and Yosemite at 3.58 inches.

Barlow said it would take about six more rainstorms of that magnitude to bring the region’s measurements up to snuff. Merced is still 5.71 inches below its normal rainfall for the season, because typically wet November and December were so atypically dry last year, he said.

The weather initiated thunderstorm warnings in the south Valley, and the National Weather Service received reports of a funnel cloud over Dos Palos. A funnel cloud is a small tornado, but what appeared in Dos Paloswas harmless and brought on by cold winds, Barlow said.

Some weak storms are predicted for Thursday, but they will bring little rain with their gusty winds, Barlow said. The system could lower temperatures Friday in Merced but are expected to rise afterward to the mid- to high 70s, which is much higher than average. “We’re looking at 10 to 15 degrees above normal by the weekend,” he said.

Much of the high Sierras saw between 1 foot and 4 feet of snow at elevations higher than 8,000 feet late last week. Barlow said that’s good news for long-term water storage. The statewide snowpack is at 31 percent of normal, according to the Department of Water Resources.

Barlow said the state’s snowpack stores water the way a human body stores fat for energy. “We’re running lean right now,” he said.

Northern California state has had more showers and that is expected to continue with storms this week. Forecasters say a half-inch of rain is possible Wednesday.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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