Parched valley expected to be drenched this week

Get out the umbrella. Weather forecasters say it's going to be a wet week.

As much as three-quarters of an inch of rain is expected to fall in the Northern San Joaquin Valley this week, according to the National Weather Service. That's about half the amount of rain the area normally sees for the entire month of December, said forecaster Christine Riley.

"So that's a pretty significant amount," she added.

The 0.03 inches of rain that has fallen downtown since Sunday night, according to the Modesto Irrigation District, is merely a prelude. More showers are expected today, and there is a chance of rain Wednesday and Thursday, too.

Along with heavy rain through Thursday -- except for a possible brief break Wednesday -- temperatures should range from 55 degrees during the day to 39 at night. Forecasters also expect wind gusts up to 30 mph at the beginning of the week.

The sky is expected to dry up Friday, and the temperature is expected to rise slightly.

MID hopes for snow

There is a chance of more rain this weekend, although partly cloudy conditions are more likely.

The MID will be paying close attention to the temperature between storms, said spokes- woman Kate Hora. That will determine water storage. If the temperature rises after snowfall, the snow will melt. Low temperatures help the district store water for use later in the year. So irrigation districts and farmers are hoping for a cold, white winter as reservoirs are low after a dry 2006-07 winter.

Sierra Nevada snowpack is 30 percent below average for this time of year, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

About a foot of snow had fallen at high elevations by Monday night. Four feet is expected to fall by the end of the week, said forecaster Johnnie Powell.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at ehightower@modbee.com or 578-2382.