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Region may have seen the last big storm of the season

Nearly three-quarters of an inch of rain fell onto Turlock Saturday from a cold front, further enhancing the water picture for the rest of the year.

While rain hit the Valley, the spiraling bands of precipitation barely touched the Sierra Nevada and snowfall totals were light with the weekend system. The Central Sierra Snow Lab only received 0.6 inches of snow and other Sierra locations ranged from a dusting to 3 inches. California’s snowpack remains above average and is 112 percent of average to date.

Since the rainfall season began on July 1, a total of 14.49 inches has fallen on Stanislaus County. That’s short of the 18.94 inches that fell during the 2022-23 season. Still, nobody is complaining given that the three previous seasons saw 6.54 inches, 9.40 and 9.96 inches respectively – a time when “Pray for Rain” signs hung on farmers’ fences locally.

The area could still receive more rain before the season comes to a close on June 30 but many believe Saturday’s storm may have been the last big one of the season.

The wettest season recorded in Modesto Irrigation District history was in 1983 when 26.01 inches fell. The driest was in 1913 when a dismal 4.30 inches hit the area.

The plentiful amount of rain and snowfall that has fallen in the Tuolumne River watershed has more than erased drought concerns for the immediate future.

Olivia Cramer, Turlock Irrigation District’s hydrology analyst gave a report to the board yesterday outlining that the watershed had received 30.46 inches of precipitation as of April 14, which is 3.5 inches under the typical accumulation, or 95 percent per date.

Cramer said six more inches are needed to meet the average but weather forecasts suggest the rains may be waning. She said that technically the state of California as a whole is 108 percent of normal for precipitation.

The Tuolumne watershed is not expected to receive much in the way of rain or snow in the next week, perhaps a tenth of an inch. This comes at a time when the region will be seeing warmer temperatures this week with cooler temperatures to follow in line with what is typical this time of year.

As of yesterday, Don Pedro Reservoir was at the 802.8 foot elevation with releases occurring at a rate of 4,293 cubic feet per second to make room for runoff from the melting snowpack.

Water was flowing into the lake at 5,435 CFS. One cubic foot per second equates to approximately 7.48 gallons per second.

TID and Modesto Irrigation District which operate the dam, are striking a balance to release enough water into the Tuolumne River to make storage room for the snow that will be melting into summer.

“It looks like we’ve hit the peak for snowpack,” said Cramer.

In March Don Pedro encroached into the flood control area, which called for stepping up water releases from the reservoir.

Cramer said the goal is to peak Lake Don Pedro as close to the 830 foot capacity level “as we can.”

“We expect to fill the reservoir and we’re not being overly aggressive in our release,” Cramer reported to the board.

Last year the runoff was later into the summer with the Tuolumne River swollen into July.

Don Pedro is expected to be at the 795 foot elevation by the end of irrigation season in October, said Cramer.

Mike Kavarian, TID’s Water Distribution Department Manager, said irrigation has started but only 48 orders were filled. He said the demand for irrigation water is still very slow and expected to be that way for the next couple of weeks.