Rain causes flooding in Merced, but wet weather is on its way out

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 20, 2013 

— A downpour flooded several city streets Wednesday evening, but meteorologists say the wet weather won’t stick around for much longer.

Precipitation moving into Merced from the Bay Area caused the sudden burst of rain Wednesday, but meteorologist Cindy Bean said today’s chance of showers is only 20percent.

“It looks like the rain is going to end today, and we’re dry through the weekend,” Bean, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Hanford, said Wednesday.

Bean said the rainfall was a break in what’s been a dry season for the region. The average rainfall in Merced at this point is 1.91 inches, Bean said, but the city’s only received about 0.18 of an inch. As of 7:30 p.m., about 0.07 of an inch had fallen.

“This is usually the beginning of our rainy season, and we’re already a little behind on our rainfall for the season,” Bean said.

Amanda Carvajal, executive director of the Merced County Farm Bureau, said many farmers have adapted to the dry spell over the last few years but are holding their breath for more rain.

“We’ve had a difficult two years, but we’ve managed to get by,” Carvajal said “This is the time of year we need the rain to replenish the groundwater aquifer and the snowpacks. There’s potential for us to compete with some of the worst years on record if we continue on this path.”

Officials with the Merced Irrigation District said Wednesday that it is prepared for the potential of another dry season similar to those of the past couple years.

“MID has been in that mode for the last two years, so we are ready,” said Hicham Eltal, MID deputy general manager. “If it’s a dry year, it will be worse because all our reservoirs in the state are getting depleted, and McClure is no different. We will be doing what we’ve done each year, working with growers.”

A few things MID has done in the past to assist growers include providing supplemental groundwater, helping them move water between one another and allocating a certain amount of water per acre.

“This is the first storm,” Eltal said. “It will probably only irrigate the weeds so we don’t expect much out of it.”

Though meteorologists say the rain won’t stick around for the weekend, Livingston Public Works Director Humberto Molina wasn’t taking any chances.

Molina spent the day Wednesday preparing his staff by ensuring they had rain gear and equipment such as flood warning signs and water pumps.

“It’s a lot of effort that goes into something as simple as controlling a flooded street,” Molina said. “Having such a small crew, we have people that are on standby because we don’t know the extent of the storm.”

Bean said meteorologists are tracking another system that has the potential to cause showers by next Wednesday or Thursday. “We’re watching the system develop, but it does have some potential to bring rain for Thanksgiving,” she said.

A high-wind warning has been issued for the Sierra Nevada, Bean said, and strong winds could affect Yosemite National Park from this Thursday evening to early Saturday morning.

The cold weather left a little dusting of snow in Tuolumne Meadows, but nothing measurable, according to Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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