Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Liveblogging the Deluge: Perspectives on the Biggest Storm in a Decade, Part Five


We finally got a taste of some of the kinds of squalls that are leading to flooding across much of Northern California. Luckily it was brief, and we have not had problems in our immediate vicinity. The view in the video above is out our front door a few moments after I got home from work, driving in conditions that were much the same as what you can see here.
Radar signal of the storm in the video above, courtesy of  Ryan Hollister @phaneritic
My dear friends who live in hurricane-prone regions are welcome to snicker a bit at my sense of awe at the violence coming from the sky. I live in a dry region, and downpours like this are pretty rare. We got 1.67 inches today, and only six days have had a higher total in the 26 years I've been measuring precipitation in my back yard. That brings our four day storm total to 3.35 inches. Again, that can hardly compare to some of the high numbers coming from the coastal mountains or the Sierra Nevada, but it represents about a quarter of an entire year's rain total in an average year in my village (just over 13 inches in the years I've been measuring).
National Park Service Photo
Meanwhile, the big flood danger in Yosemite has passed as the storm surge topped out at 12.7 feet and subsided a few hours later. Yosemite is in the process of reopening the valley floor to tourism. Highway 140 on the Merced River was closed by mud and rockslides (good pictures at the link). Snow has been falling in the valley and the adjacent high country, which is a good development. We need to build the snowpack to have any hope of putting a dent in the drought.
Dry Creek at around 1,000 cfs yesterday. We'll see how it looks tomorrow at peak runoff. 7,000 cfs is expected.

The Tuolumne River continues to cause some headaches as dam operators try to tread a delicate path between high flows from Don Pedro Reservoir and high flows along Dry Creek, an unconstrained waterway that has been flowing at more than a thousand cubic feet per second for several days. The creek has my undivided attention right now, as flows are expected to crest at more than 7,000 cubic feet per second tomorrow. I hope to get out and snap some pictures.

I have had little to say about the Stanislaus River. New Melones Reservoir is huge, and the Stanislaus is a relatively small river compared to the Tuolumne. As a consequence, the water level in the reservoir has been low throughout the drought. It began this week at 27% of capacity, about 47% of normal for this time of year. The lake has risen about 20 feet this week, and now stands at 31% of capacity (54% of normal).

It's been an interesting week...