MODESTO — The first big storm of the season is coming, and it's going to be a big one.
"You guys are going to get wet," said George Cline, forecaster for the National Weather Service.
A series of storms is expected to drop as much as 4 inches of rain on the Northern San Joaquin Valley through Sunday. That's a lot of rainfall for an area where the seasonal average is a bit more than 12 inches.
Concerns over the impending storms convinced the city of Ceres to put off its annual Christmas Festival and opening of Christmas Tree Lane, Recreation Supervisor Traci Ferris said Tuesday. Originally set for Saturday, the party will take place Dec. 8.
"The city is erring on the side of caution," Ferris said in an e-mail. "We hope that this postponement will alleviate any safety concerns for patrons and city employees."
Modesto's Celebration of Lights on Saturday night is still set to go, although officials are keeping an eye on conditions.
Rain was expected to begin by this morning, with the more powerful storms coming Thursday through Sunday.
But the rainfall forecast here is nowhere near what our neighbors to the north expect: up to 14 inches landing on the upper Sacramento and Shasta areas.
Cline described the system coming in as "relatively warm," meaning that snow levels will remain fairly high about 7,000 feet. But the storm also will bring high wind, with gusts to 45 mph.
"The winds probably will play havoc on the trees, especially any trees with leaves in them," he said.
Falling leaves can clog drain systems, leading to flooded roads. Public works crews are prepared to handle it.
"We have sweepers on duty Friday, Saturday and Sunday," said Jessica Smart, spokeswoman for the city of Modesto. They will work with leaf pickup crews to remove debris from the streets as quickly as possible.
David Jones, spokesman for Stanislaus County, said county crews work through the summer to ensure that pump stations are operating and drainage areas are cleared. Crews will be dispatched to trim trees as necessary.
"Our saws are sharp," he said in an e-mail.
The reservoirs are ready, too. "Because the 2011-12 water year was dry, there is plenty of space in Don Pedro Reservoir to accommodate multiple storms like this one," Turlock Irrigation District spokeswoman Michelle Reimers said.
As the rain saturates the ground, the potential for trees uprooting and falling over increases. That, along with rain-blown branches, can cause power failures.
Representatives of the Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts said crews have been trimming trees regularly to minimize the danger.
For residents concerned about flooding near their homes, sandbags are available at corporation yards in the cities of Modesto and Turlock. In Modesto, sandbags will be placed outside the gate for residents after hours. Turlock crews were packing extra sandbags Tuesday; they're available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday. If demand is high, hours could be added.
Stanislaus County residents can call (209) 525-4130 at any time, Jones said. After hours, an answering service will relay messages to crews.
Jones said the county's Office of Emergency Services is keeping an eye on the situation.
"OES is monitoring the weather system in consultation with the National Weather Service," he said, "but no extraordinary steps are being taken right now."
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.
To report power failures in Modesto, call (209) 526-8222 or (888) 897-8222.
In the Turlock Irrigation District area, call (209) 883-8301.
Sandbags are available for Modesto residents by calling the Streets Division at (209) 342-2244.
In Turlock, sandbags are available at 901 S. Walnut Road between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Stanislaus County residents can call (209) 525-4130 for sandbags.