This is the week California’s ‘big melt’ begins to accelerate
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FRESNO, Calif. – We have seen the snow covering the Sierra Nevada, and now we are all about to see the “big melt.”
Scientists are predicting the anticipated melt of the historic snowpack will begin in earnest this week as temperatures reach the mid 90s in the San Joaquin Valley — making it an unseasonably warm spring.
There’s no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future. And yet, a flood warning remains in effect for most of the Valley until further notice.
That’s because the heat wave this week will zap the Sierra snowpack much faster than usual.
“A lot of rivers that are currently fairly high but well within their banks might exceed flood stage by later this week,” said Daniel Swain, UCLA climate scientist, on Monday.
Tulare Lake continues to fill
Swain was referring to rivers like the Merced River. And then there’s Tulare Lake, where Swain says, “there’s nowhere else for water to go” and will continue to “fill up like a bathtub.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the southern area of the Valley Tuesday to survey flooding around Tulare Lake.
It’s the first visit by the governor to the region which has been experiencing flooding since storms in March.
The return of Tulare Lake has demanded reinforcements along levees that protect homes and farms, and the state has sent numerous resources to address the flooding.
Swain expects snowmelt to speed up until sometime next week, then continue more slowly as temperatures return to seasonal normals.
And at nearby reservoirs, water levels may seem low because flood releases have been making room for rapid snowmelt.
Higher up in the mountains, where all this snow is coming from, Yosemite National Park officials announced Tuesday most of Yosemite Valley will be closed starting on Friday because of the potential of flooding.
Anyone with camping reservations will be automatically refunded and those with wilderness permits can reschedule to open trails. The closure is expected to last through Wednesday, possibly longer.
“We're still looking at minor flooding in the San Joaquin Valley. But right now, the more threatening area will be inside of Yosemite National Park. And that will be for both Thursday and Friday,” said National Weather Service forecast Carlos Molina.
Temperatures are set to peak this weekend in the mid-90s before settling back down to temperature norms in the mid 70s next week.
Fresno is typically in the mid-70s this time of year according to the National Weather Service.
Governor: Buckle in
During his visit to the Valley, Newsom said the Valley should buckle up for a long summer ahead.
“When I’m placed like this, it’s usually with the worst behind us, in the rear-view mirror. When, in fact, where we’re standing will likely be underwater in a matter of weeks, if not months,” Newsom said, while standing atop a dirt levee just outside Corcoran.
Behind him, water stretches as far as the eye can see. Only silos from a nearby flooded farm interrupt the seeming ocean.
Millions of gallons of snowmelt are destined for the lakebed as the mercury soars.
There’s a bit of good news, despite a forecasted heatwave, officials say reservoirs will staunch the flows – for now.