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Batten down the hatches
Winter storms bring high winds, flooding
winter storm
This GOES-West GeoColor satellite image made available by NOAA shows a storm system approaching the U.S. West coast on Tuesday (NOAA via AP).

The weather app on your smart phone predicts a 90 percent chance of rain today and Thursday.

The National Weather Service’s forecast, however, is much more ominous.

The next storm headed for Turlock — and all of California, really — is expected to be fierce one, with the NWS issuing both a flood advisory and a high-wind warning for the Northern San Joaquin Valley for today and Thursday.

“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” the NWS advised. “Creeks and streams may rise out of their banks. Flooding may occur in poor drainage and urban areas. Low-water crossings may be flooded. Storm drains and ditches may become clogged with debris. Extensive street flooding and flooding of creeks and rivers are possible. Area rivers, creeks, and streams are running high … and are expected to rise with more heavy rain.”

Regarding the winds, the NWS predicts, “Winds could blow down trees and power lines. Widespread power outages are possible. Travel could be difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles. Saturated ground and weakened trees from recent storms will increase the potential for trees to be blown down.”

Daniel Swain, a weather scientist at UCLA who holds a Ph.D. in earth-system science from Stanford and a bachelor’s degree from UC Davis in atmospheric science, backs up what the NWS has predicted.

“Starting to look like it's going to be a rough 10-plus days from a flood risk perspective in Northern California, with a series of very wet and high-impact storms,” Swain Tweeted on Monday. “All in all, this has the potential to be a period of very high impact weather and flood risk across Northern California. Southern California will also see some significant precipitations at times, but not nearly as much as NorCal.”

Swain goes on to say that “by late Thursday, NorCal will get a bit of a breather (though light to moderate precipitation will still be possible at times through the weekend). But then things get potentially even hairier by early next week.”

According to Turlock Irrigation District, the next week or so will be particularly wet here in Stanislaus County.

“There is approximately 3.1 inches of precipitation forecasted locally over the next eight days, with about 1.5 inches of that forecasted (today) and Thursday,” said Brandon McMillan, TID communications specialist.

To put that into context, Turlock receives an average of 12.49 inches of rain per year, meaning nearly a quarter of that total could hit over the next eight days.

“In the Tuolumne River Watershed, there is a range of approximately 5 to 11 inches of precipitation forecasted for the next day and 11 to 14 inches for the next 16 days — although the 16-day forecast is still frequently changing,” added McMillan.

The upside of the coming storm, of course, is the effect it will have on California’s drought.

“The drought situation is going to look a lot better when we see the next major drought update in either two or four weeks,” Swain said during his virtual office hours on his YouTube channel, Weather West. “I think we will have largely alleviated the short-term drought in Northern California. From a surface-soil-moisture prospective, from a stream-flow perspective, everything is going to look pretty good. And it’s possible that even from a reservoir perspective things will look a lot better than they did. Certainly, this is already true for the smaller reservoirs and it may be true in a week or two regarding the larger ones, as well.

“It’s going to be a high impact storm. I don’t think it’s going to be the strongest storm that you’ve seen in your lifetime. … Maybe not even the strongest storm of the past decade. But the strongest storm of the last few years is plausible in some parts of Northern California.”