A strong winter storm soaked the West Side last week, drenching the area with rainfall which reportedly approached five inches from Tuesday night through Friday morning.
In Newman, street flooding was reported as the storm drain system was unable to keep up with the heavy rains and strong winds brought down at least two trees, according to Perfecto Millan, the city’s public works superintendent.
Gustine saw limited street flooding and some fallen tree limbs, reported Dennis Castro, public works supervisor.
The continuing rains flooded low-lying county roadways, fields and orchards as well. Bell, Jorgensen and Eastin roads were closed for a time as a rising Orestimba creek overflowed the roadways.
Local weather-watchers reported substantial rainfall amounts.
Newman wastewater plant operator Lance Perry said 4.75 inches of rain was recorded at the plant, while a few miles to the south rural Gustine resident Tony Rocha said 4.4 inches of rain fell from Tuesday night to Friday morning.
Perry said a maximum wind gust of 48 miles an hour was recorded Wednesday morning at about 2 a.m. Gusts reached 46 miles an hour mid-day Wednesday, he stated.
City officials in Newman and Gustine said, however, that overall the storm caused few major issues.
“A lot of people were concerned and called to say that we were flooding. It was some street flooding, nothing beyond that,” said Millan. “Our system struggles to handle that much water.”
The rainfall filled the Sherman Parkway ditch and the Sherman Park detention basin, he told Mattos Newspapers.
Some folks made the best of the opportunity and kayaked on the flooded basin, Millan added.
The winds did take a toll on trees, Millan noted.
“Throughout the storm we picked up some residents’ trees that fell onto streets. There were a couple of trees that came down,” he explained, adding that no city-owned street trees were lost to the storm.
Gustine generally fared well through the storm, Castro told Mattos Newspapers. The city has been able to keep its storm drains clean with its new Vac-Con truck, he noted, which kept street flooding to a minimum.
“We were ahead of it,” he said. “We were also lucky that all of the leaves were off the trees.”
Castro said the strong winds brought down some tree limbs in Schmidt and Henry Miller parks.
Local almond grower Jim Jasper, president of Stewart & Jasper and member of the Del Puerto Water District Board of Directors, said the rain was more than welcome.
“We had already started irrigating our almonds,” he commented. “This is going to save us an irrigation or two. The more (irrigation supply) we can save now we can use later when the weather starts to get warm.”
But because the rain fell faster than the soil could soak in the water, Jasper added, much potential benefit was lost due to run-off.
“It is getting into the profile of the roots to a degree, but you see a tremendous amount of run-off in the orchards,” he said.
Whether the storm brightens the outlook for an increased 2021 water allocation remains to be seen, he reflected. Jasper said that, even if more rains arrive, he is not optimistic that growers in federal districts such as Del Puerto will receive more than a 20 percent allocation this water year.
“I’m very happy that it came,” he said of last week’s storm. “I would hope that more comes because it can’t hurt our situation at all. To what degree it is going to help, I don’t know.”
Anthea Hansen, Del Puerto’s general manager, cautioned in a Jan. 28 memo to district water users that “despite this week’s storm, with hopefully more to follow, the current forecasts and reservoir conditions indicate that 2021 will likely be another challenging water year.”
The Central California Irrigation District had anticipated beginning water deliveries Feb. 1, said General Manager Jarrett Martin, but with the last week’s rains most of that demand will be deferred.
“It did delay some irrigation, which in a dry year is good,” he said, adding that farmers are “using Mother Nature to make that first irrigation rather than any sort of allocation.”
The CCID will not get its initial declaration on the 2021 water allocation until mid-February, Martin noted.
While last week’s storm was helpful, he commented, the year remains extremely dry.
But, Martin reflected, there is still time for that to turn around.
“It all starts with the first storm,” he commented Tuesday. “We will see what the next few weeks bring.”