Series of storms pack a punch

Gilroy
— The first of two major winter storms was expected to strike
California late Thursday night, bringing strong winds and rain
along the coast and heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada.
Gilroy — The first of two major winter storms was expected to strike California late Thursday night, bringing strong winds and rain along the coast and heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada.

“The entire state of California is pretty much under the gun for the next three or four days,” Duane Dykema, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Monterey, said Thursday. “People are definitely going to have to be wary if they have travel plans, especially if they plan to go to the mountains.”

It appears the city and water district will be the last ones to be caught off guard by the storm.

“We are in constant preparation,” City Administrator Jay Baksa said. “Once the rainy season starts here in October we start with making sure we have enough sand, making sure our emergency operations are up to date. We meet the first Thursday of every month for an emergency preparation meeting. [Yesterday’s] topic was the current weather. Our operations people said they’re all ready to go.”

Baksa said the city is in constant communication with the water district, which has already begun county-wide flood-control preparations.

In the Uvas/Llagas watershed _ which includes Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and San Martin – crews have inspected all the creeks, according to water district spokesman Mike DiMarco. They have given special attention underneath bridges and narrow points in the creeks, where debris can accumulate, back up water flow and cause floods.

Crews have cleared out such areas and will continue to patrol the watershed during the storm, according to DiMarco.

“This is something we do whenever a storm is coming in,” he said, adding that the water district does not foresee any major problems.

“Right now the reservoirs are only about half full so they can catch a lot of runoff before it hits the creeks down on the valley floor,” DiMarco explained. “We’re in good shape, but just in case we’re going to keep our eyes and ears open.”

The first storm, which originated in the eastern Pacific Ocean, was expected to reach the San Francisco Bay area late Thursday night. The NWS issued a high wind warning for the region between San Francisco and Monterey.

California’s north coast can expect to see some wind and rain, but the brunt of the storm was expected to hit the Bay Area and then head south to the Los Angeles area by late Friday morning.

A second storm, which originated in Western Canada, was expected to move south through Washington and Oregon before reaching California on Friday night, offering no break between the storms.

“It’s going to bring a lot of moisture and storminess throughout California,” Dykema said.

The two storms could cause flooding near streams and rivers, produce damaging winds and disrupt air travel, Dykema said. Dry weather is not expected until the middle of next week, he said.

Over the next four days, the Bay Area is expected to see between 1 and 3 inches of rain at low elevations, and 2 to 5 inches in the coastal mountains. Wind gusts could top 60 mph.

Southern California is expected to receive between 4 and 8 inches of rain in coastal and valley regions and up to 20 inches in the mountains.

Between 3 and 5 feet of snow is expected in the Sierras, where a winter storm warning has been issued from 4am Friday to 4pm Sunday.

A continuous band of storms that began on Dec. 27 brought up to 9 feet of snow at some ski resorts around Lake Tahoe and pushed rainfall totals throughout California well above normal.

Since the start of the rainfall season July 1, Gilroy has received 13.35 inches of rain.

“It’s probably about average or just above normal,” said Fire Capt. Art Amaro, who assists with rainfall measurements at the Chestnut Fire Station. “Usually the heavy rain months are January, February, and March.”

Residents can find out where to get sand bags and other storm-readiness information by visiting the Santa Clara Valley Water District online at www.valleywater.org, or by calling 265-2607 x2238.

Residents who spot flooding or other water problems during the storm should call 9-1-1.

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