The Union Democrat
Next storm expected early in the week
In the midst of a recordbreaking start to winter, the Mother Lode is getting a welcome break this New Year’s Day weekend.
Some people in Cedar Ridge and other mountain communities have been without power since last Saturday, Christmas Day, and the lucky ones are relying on generators and wood stoves for heat. Overnight lows have plunged below freezing for the past week and were expected in the 20s and low 30s Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night before the first winter storm of 2022 is expected to arrive late Monday or early Tuesday.
Michelle Allison, a sixyear resident of Cedar Ridge, said she’s been without power since the night of Dec. 25. There are trees down all around her place, and she saw her first Pacific Gas and Electric workers until Thursday afternoon.
“Power lines are on the ground,” she said in a phone interview Thursday. “I talked to a PG&E lineman and asked him when our power will be back on. He said ‘I have no idea.’ Another PG&E worker in a truck heard what he said and started shaking his head back and forth, shaking his head no. They seemed very surprised by what they could see in my neighborhood.”
Allison speculated that other PG&E workers were working to repair the Tuolumne Main Canal, which carries 95% of the water that goes to 40,000 residents of southwest Tuolumne County. A tree crashed into one of the canal flumes during storms earlier this week and Jeff Smith, a PG&E spokesman, said repairs to the damaged flume section were expected to be complete by Saturday.
There were still 11,300 PG&E customers without power in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties as of Thursday afternoon, a PG&E spokeswoman said. No warming centers were yet planned in Tuolumne County for this weekend because forecasts were not meeting the OES threshold for opening places for people to get warm.
The next storm sys
tem approaching the Mother Lode is expected to bring more rain, snow, and strong winds. From Monday to Wednesday, Ebbetts Pass could get another 12 to 18 inches of snow, Sonora Pass could get 8 to 12 more inches, and Tioga Pass could get 4 to 6 more inches of snow, depending on how far south the system tracks as it moves over the Central Sierra.
Snow levels could be from 3,500 feet to 6,000 feet by Tuesday.
Sonora and other foothills communities could receive another quarterinch to half-inch of rain by Wednesday. Winds gusting to 20 miles per hour are possible for Sonora, and up to 25 mph for Groveland from Monday through Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, about 90 miles northeast of Sonora, technicians with the state Department of Water Resources did a manual snow survey at Phillips Station off U.S. Route 50 on Thursday and confirmed the obvious — that winter storms this month have provided a strong start to the 2021-2022 winter and some drought relief.
The last week of storms of 2021 alone put a significant dent in drought conditions in the Central Sierra and the rest of California, according to U.S. Drought Monitor scientists. A drought map released Thursday showed less than 1% of the state remained in the most dire drought category, exceptional, down from 23.11% the week before.
The foothills of Calaveras and Tuolumne counties improved from exceptional to extreme drought, while the mountain forests and rugged Central Sierra crest improved from extreme to severe drought.
All of California remains in at least moderate drought conditions.
The manual survey at Phillips Station recorded 78.5 inches of snow depth, and a snow water equivalent of 20 inches, which is 202% of average for the location for the date Dec. 30.
Snowpack sensors showed Central Sierra snow-water equivalents at 164% of normal for the date Dec. 30, and 58% of average for April 1, a key date water agency managers use to monitor each year's water supply.
Statewide, snow-water equivalents were 160% of normal for Dec. 30, and 55% of average for April 1.
Also as of Thursday, the Central Sierra region that includes the Stanislaus River and Tuolumne River watersheds, Calaveras Big Trees, Hetch Hetchy and the Stanislaus National Forest had received 20.2 inches of precipitation in the last three months of 2021. That regional total was equivalent to 169% of average for the date Dec. 30.
The Central Sierra regional total for the last three months of 2021 already exceeds the 18.8inch total for the entire previous water year, 2020-2021, the third-driest on record.