Three more winter storms will hit the Sacramento area and Northern California starting Wednesday afternoon, dumping more water into the region’s swollen rivers while adding to the Sierra Nevada snowpack.
Forecasters said Tuesday the storms aren’t expected to be as fierce as last week’s. But with soils already saturated and some streams already overflowing their banks, some additional flooding, while unlikely, isn’t out of the question. The storms will hit Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
“Any additional rainfall is probably going to cause rises on rivers,” said forecaster Jim Mathews of the National Weather Service. “It’s going to increase the flood threat somewhat.” He said motorists heading over the Sierra summits can expect wintry conditions.
Weather service forecaster Jason Clapp said the Sacramento region can expect 3 to 4 inches of rain by the time the last of the three storms runs its course next Monday, a six-day span. Last week the region absorbed 5.4 inches over five days.
In south Sacramento County, the site of localized flooding and three levee breaches last week, the Cosumnes River isn’t expected to flood again but “I wouldn’t rule it out,” said hydrologist Alan Haynes of the federal government’s California Nevada River Forecast Center.
He said Sacramentans who live near rivers will see continued high waters throughout the week. “Everything’s going to be running high and vulnerable to flooding,” he said.
In south Sacramento County, workers have spent the past few days shoring up the levee at Snodgrass Slough. The last of the three levees that breached last week, Snodgrass flooded homes and streets in the Point Pleasant area south of Elk Grove. The crews have made good progress and officials are confident the slough can withstand this week’s weather, said spokesman Matt Robinson of the county Department of Water Resources.
Officials are stocking sandbag distribution centers and asking residents to use bags left over from last week. They are patrolling levees to spot problems in advance of the rains.
Snodgrass’ levee breached when a beaver carved a hole in the structure and destabilized it. “We feel that the reclamation district has done a good job in making sure that the levee has been substantially fortified,” Robinson said.
Other levees were patched at Grizzly Slough and Lost Slough. All three of the levees are in a rural area near Twin Cities Road and Interstate 5.
On Tuesday, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved a declaration of a state of emergency retroactive to Jan. 5. The declaration makes the county eligible to recoup storm-related costs, although damage estimates aren’t yet available.
Despite their confidence, officials acknowledged that they can’t say precisely how high the rivers are expected to rise. “No idea; it’s hard to say,” Robinson said.
One big difference is that last week was relatively warm, which added to the rainfall amounts. This week is expected to be colder. The second storm, forecast to begin Friday, will bring snow as low as 3,000 feet, according to Mathews.
In any event, the storms will add to the prodigious rainfall. Sacramento has already seen 7.18 inches this month, compared to the average rainfall for the month of 3.97 inches. Rainfall total for the season stands at 16.69 inches, which is 184 percent of normal.
Mathews said the Sierra will receive several feet of fresh snow by Monday.