Heavy rains, possiblity of flooding in coming week

Heavy rains

A series of storms will move into California next week with the
potential of dumping several inches of rain on the Gilroy area.
A series of storms will move into California next week with the potential of dumping several inches of rain on the Gilroy area.

The National Weather Service is saying residents should prepare for potential flooding, noting that this could be the largest series of storms to hit California in several years. Lows are expected to be in the 40s and highs should be in the 50s, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s definitely not something to be taken lightly,” said Bob Benjamin, a forecaster for the National Weather Service.

About three to four storm systems are expected to reach California starting this weekend, creating what could be about six to eight days of wet weather, with a few breaks here and there, Benjamin said. Rainfall is expected to range from 4 to 8 inches in low-lying areas and 10 to 15 inches in the mountains next week. Some areas could receive as much as 20 inches, Benjamin said. That amount of rainfall could be the largest the state has seen at one time since flooding in 1998, he said.

“The storm systems are basically lined up across the Pacific,” Benjamin said.

The National Weather Service predicts a light storm on Saturday, followed by the first of several significant storms on Sunday evening and Monday. It is hard to predict wind speeds far in advance, but they could be somewhere around 20 to 30 mph, Benjamin said.

Then, a second storm is expected to start Tuesday afternoon and run through Wednesday. That could be the heaviest storm, Benjamin said.

Yet another storm will likely strike Wednesday through Thursday, and more storms could come throughout the week.

That amount of rain potentially could lead to flooding, Benjamin said.

As a result, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is gearing up for the expected rain, district spokeswoman Susan Siravo said.

“We’re ready for the storm,” she said, adding that crews will be ready if necessary to respond to hot spots, such as Llagas Creek.

The district has removed vegetation from creeks, among other measures, to prevent the waterways from becoming clogged, she said.

On a brighter note, the upcoming storms will improve the water supply for the district, which provides water for both municipalities and farms in Santa Clara County. The district’s reservoirs are now at 41.8 percent of capacity at 70,662 acre-feet. An acre-foot is about one foot of water over a plane the size of a football field.

“We’re really expecting a boost to water supply,” Siravo said.

Siravo noted that the water district receives half of its supply from state and federal water projects, which have severely curtailed water supply allocations for its contractors this year. State Water Project contractors are only projected to receive 5 percent of their normal allocations, the state Department of Water Resources predicted in December. However, Siravo noted that allocations generally increase as time goes on, and January and February tend to be the rainiest months.

Most water from state and federal water projects in California originate from snow runoff from the Sierra Nevada range. Quite a bit of snow is expected in those mountains starting this weekend, Benjamin said. That not only has consequences for the water supply but also for people traveling there.

Meanwhile, folks staying closer to home also should be on guard in case of potential flooding, he said.

“Anybody who has interests or property should take precautionary measures,” he said.