Thursday brought a modest start to what could be a five-day stretch of stormy weather in Modesto and other parched locales.
The Modesto Irrigation District recorded 0.25 inches of rain downtown from midnight to 6 p.m. Thursday, raising the total for the storm season to 2.53 inches, or 35 percent of average.
The storm brought snow down to about 2,500 feet in the Sierra Nevada, a few miles east of Sonora. The snowpack for the central part of the range stood at 19 percent of average early Thursday, up from 18 percent a day earlier, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
The snow was deeper up higher, but the Dodge Ridge ski area could be a few days away from its long-delayed opening. Weekend snow could make the difference, owner Sally Helm said Thursday afternoon.
“We’re hoping that it delivers a couple feet, and we can open early next week,” she said. If that happens, about 300 seasonal employees will join the 25 who work for Dodge all year.
The Badger Pass ski area in Yosemite National Park plans to open its cross-country area today It still lacks enough snow for downhill skiing. Bear Valley, east of Arnold, has been open with limited terrain but could expand with this week’s snow.
Despite the welcome rain and snow, the state remains in a severe drought, made worse by dropping levels in the reservoirs that had buffered the two below-average years that preceded 2014.
The National Weather Service said the Modesto area has a 60 percent chance of rain today mainly after 4 p.m., and a 90 percent chance tonight. The chances are 100 percent Saturday, 90 percent Saturday night and 70 percent Sunday, with rain possible again Monday.
A few crashes were reported on rain-slicked roads. The Modesto Police Department closed Claus Road on Thursday morning near Johansen High School because of downed power lines after a crash.
Thursday also brought a weather-related concern about the state’s electricity grid, but not because of this storm. High demand for natural gas, resulting from the cold snap across much of North America, prompted a “flex alert” from the California Independent System Operator.
The Folsom-based entity, which operates the power grid, issued a rare winter advisory urging residents statewide to conserve power until 10 p.m. Thursday to ease concerns at some gas-fired plants.