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Fallouts from three-day storm minimal in Merced County

Merced received more than two inches of rain over the past four days in a storm that's fizzling out today. Forecasters say today will be somewhat of a breather before a bit more precipitation douses the area Tuesday.

Storms naturally bring some power outages, downed tree limbs and instant ponds but Merced was spared major damage from rainfall that began Thursday, intensified Friday, kept pouring Saturday and largely retreated Sunday.

Jim Bagnall, Hanford-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm lived up to its previous billing, dropping the predicted 2.12 inches of rain on Merced and 80 to 90 inches of snow in the highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada.

"Generally things are winding down," Bagnall said. "One last little disturbance was pushing through overnight (Sunday) and will leave a few showers on the Valley floor and a bit more snow in the mountains. Another quick-moving system is bearing down on us Tuesday but it won't equal what just went through."

John Raggio, Merced's public works director, said overall Merced fared "pretty well" during the storm. Extra city forces were deployed during a Saturday night downpour but were home by 10 p.m. that night. He credits advance efforts to clear storm drains and catch basins with minimizing flooding instances.

Raggio said the city brought in its own pumps to supplant a poorly performing Caltrans lift station at Highway 59 and Childs Avenue, pumping water that chronically accumulates near the Merced County Fairgrounds into a nearby Merced Irrigation District canal.

This action dissipated ponding that used to last for days. Only a couple of downed tree limbs were reported over the weekend, thanks to a previous storm which thinned out debris, Raggio said.

Merced City Fire Chief Ken Mitten said the weekend was quiet for firefighters who handed out 400 sandbags in anticipation of flooding.

Nicole Tam, Stockton-based spokeswoman for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., said 2,600 utility customers in Merced were without power at varying times over the weekend along with another 11 Atwater residents in a series of isolated incidents.

"Mother Nature's touch was light on this area. We had crews working around the clock to restore power in parts of the San Joaquin Valley. The heaviest-hit area was the Mother Lode region, in Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties," she said.

At the height of the storm Friday night, 51,000 Central Valley PG&E customers from Amador County to Bakersfield were without power, Tam said.

Bagnall, with the Weather Service, said the weather will be dry here after today. Another storm system Thursday will mainly stay north of the Central Valley. From next Friday through the weekend it will be dry in Merced but fog is likely to return.

Merced's rainfall totals include 0.07 inches Thursday; 0.97 inches Friday; and 0.54 inches each day on Saturday and Sunday, Bagnall said. Gusty winds mainly were confined to Merced County's Westside.

Tuolumne Meadows, in Yosemite's high country, received six inches of new snow Friday morning, 20 inches overnight Saturday and a total of more than 4 feet. Yosemite received three to six feet of snow, particularly higher elevations. The Valley floor received more than a foot of new snow, Bagnall said.

Mark J. Hendrickson, director of governmental affairs for Merced County, said the county fared very well throughout the entire storm event, all the while receiving significant amounts of rain and heavy wind at times.

The county's Emergency Operations Center operated on a limited basis, including representatives from the Office of Emergency Services, Merced County Sheriff's Department and public works.

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