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Merced area to get much cooler temps Thursday

No sweat.

Mercedians used to typical August weather of highs in the 90s and 100s will be pleasantly surprised by today’s predicted weather that’s more common in the spring or fall.

The high today should be in the mid-70s, down from a predicted high of about 90 on Wednesday, and the Merced area may even get some rain showers and thunderstorms.

An unusually strong and cold low pressure system is expected today and tonight, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford.

“We should have quite a bit of cooling,” said Brian Ochs, a meteorologist at the weather service. He said that Thursday’s high in the Merced area should be about 75, with temperatures in the high country of the Sierra Nevada plummeting down to near 30 degrees.

Ochs said that the snow level could be down to the 9,000-foot level, which could catch some backcountry hikers in the Yosemite area unprepared for the unusually cold weather. Although not much precipitation is expected in the San Joaquin Valley, the mountain areas could get fairly wet, he said.

The cool weather is the result of a low pressure system that has been sitting off the coast for a while, and is finally making its way inland, Ochs said.

“The high country could get quite a bit of precipitation, including snow,” he said.

Although the system will be gone from the Valley by Friday, Ochs said that temperatures forecast for Friday and the weekend shouldn’t get much above 90.

“This certainly isn’t normal for this time of the year,” Ochs said.

Despite the fact that harvesting of crops in the area started ratcheting up this month, the weird weather shouldn’t hurt any crops, according to David Robinson, the agricultural commissioner for the county.

The cooler temperatures actually help most crops grow better, he said. “Plants start to stress once it gets too hot,” Robinson said.

But if the area gets hailstorms, that could hurt some tree crops such as peaches, Robinson said. A hard rainstorm could also affect alfalfa hay that’s been cut in the field, and possibly market tomatoes that are being harvested now.

“Unless we get a whale of a weather system, the crops should be OK,” he said.

But overall, the unusual weather will be welcomed by farmers as well as local residents.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com

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