A welcomed storm hit Turlock and the West Coast on Monday, providing much-needed precipitation in the region’s watershed and providing reinforcements to the state’s depleted snowpack.
Turlock Irrigation District hydrologist Olivia Cramer provided good news to the water agency’s Board of Directors during their meeting Tuesday, following a stormy start to the week which left Turlock streets flooded and caused at least one major power outage.
With data up to Sunday, Cramer reported that just 1.5 inches of rainfall had been received in December — but she assured Directors that once numbers from Monday’s storm were tallied, the Tuolumne River Watershed’s total precipitation would sit well above the 5.86-inch historical average for the month. Snow sensor data on Sunday also sat at just 61.5% of average for the date, Cramer added, but by Tuesday morning were reading at levels 107% or average.
In the next eight days, it’s anticipated the watershed will receive five inches of precipitation, while the next 16 days show plenty of wet weather with an expected 13 to 20 inches of rainfall.
“It's anyone's guess as to what's to occur, but more than likely it is going to be wet moving forward,” Cramer said.
Monday’s storm brought about 2.4 inches of total rainfall to the Turlock/Modesto area, according to the National Weather Service. Windy and rainy conditions brought down power lines Geer Road and Minnesota Avenue Monday morning, resulting in road closures and power outages which last until nearly 11 a.m.
In terms of snowfall, Cramer said the watershed received up to seven feet of snow in some areas. According to the California Department of Water Resources, the storm brought the statewide snowpack to 76% of normal for the date and 18% of the April 1 average. Last Friday, the snowpack was at just 19% of normal for the date.
The storm also helped in terms of Don Pedro Reservoir storage, Cramer said, and with continued wet conditions, elevation of the reservoir would sit at just above 740 by the end of January. Even with dry conditions following the forecasted incoming rain, snowpack runoff would still measure at about average, she said.
The rainfall comes as about 80% of the state suffers from extreme or exceptional drought, and, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly all of Stanislaus and Merced counties are experiencing exceptional drought.
“Those are all good signs, and we are crossing our fingers that the forecast will hold and we'll receive everything that's projected,” Cramer said.