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'The perfect storm'

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Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2008 10:00 pm

Weather forecasters predict a monster storm to hit the area today and last through the weekend, bringing power outages, localized flooding and falling trees.

Rain began pelting the Lodi-Galt area on Thursday afternoon, but up to 3 inches are predicted for today, and 5 to 6 feet of snow in the mountains. Wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph are also predicted, according to AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm.

"It's really the perfect storm," said Nicole Tam, a spokeswoman from the Stockton office of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Tam said that the combination of strong winds and heavy rain could cause power outages when trees, limbs and other vegetation fall onto power lines.

Meanwhile, the California Office of Emergency Services has been placed on "high alert" by activating the State Operations Center, where local agencies can request help for local problems, said OES spokeswoman Carol Singleton.

"There may be localized flooding," Singleton said. "We'll help them if they need a swift-water rescue team, sandbags, or whatever. There's going to be a lot of different issues going on."

Some of those issues will be in the Sierra Nevada, which is expected to be a hazardous place to be all day today.

"It will be very life-threatening for anyone trying to go through those passes," said Mike Pigott, an AccuWeather meteorologist. "Getting out is going to be tough."

California Highway Patrol spokesman Adrian Quintero advises people to run errands either before the brunt of the storm hits the Lodi area this morning, or to wait a day before going shopping.

The city of Lodi will provide information on significant power outages on the city's emergency radio station, 1250 on the AM dial. Outages can be reported in the city limits on a 24-hour basis at 368-5735. In unincorporated San Joaquin County, call the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. at (800) PGE-5002. In Sacramento County, call the Sacramento Municipal Utility District at (888) 456-SMUD.
Sources: City of Lodi, SMUD, PG&E.
Today: Up to 3 inches of rain from the first storm is expected this morning through tonight on the Central Valley floor and wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph. High will be about 55 degrees today and 48 tonight.
In the Sierra Nevada, at least 3 feet will fall today and another 2 to 3 feet overnight. Snow level about 7,000 feet. Blizzard conditions in the Lake Tahoe area with winds of 70 to 80 mph. By noon, snow will extend from the mountains east of Redding to east of Fresno.
Saturday: Second storm, this one bringing colder air and wind gusts up to 35 mph. High in Lodi area will be about 50 degrees, with a low of 41. Snow level 4,000 feet and 3,000 to 3,500 feet at night.
Sunday: Third storm. Breezy, but not as windy as today or Saturday. High will be 49, low about 33. If there is any lingering precipitation Sunday night, there could be rain mixed with snowflakes in the foothills, but no accumulations of snow.
Monday: There will be a fourth storm, but it isn't known whether it will be Monday or later next week.
Source: AccuWeather.

A mini-van enters a wet Galt parking lot during the start of a large storm. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

• Have battery-operated radios with fresh batteries ready for updates on storm conditions and power outages.
• Have battery-operated flashlights with fresh batteries on hand.
• Have a cell phone or hard-wire, single-line telephone on hand. Cordless phones will not work without electricity.
• Don't use candles because of fire risk. If you must use candles, don't place them near drapes, under lampshades or near Christmas trees. Keep candles away from small children, and do not leave candles unattended.
• Fill used liter-size plastic soda bottles with water and place them in the freezer. During an extended outage, transfer them to the refrigerator to prevent food from spoiling. Open the refrigerator only when necessary, keeping warm air out and cooler air in.
• If you see a downed power line, assume it is "live," or carrying electric current. Don't touch or try to move it, and keep children and animals away. Report downed power lines and other electric emergencies immediately by calling 9-1-1.
• If your power goes out, turn off or even unplug all electric appliances. Otherwise, when power is restored, several appliances may come back on at once and overload your circuits, or hot appliances may come on while you're away or asleep and pose a fire hazard. Leave a single lamp on to alert you when power returns. Turn your appliances back on one at a time when conditions return to normal.
Source: Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

State law requires motorists to have their headlights on whenever they use their windshield wipers, and they need to slow down during the storm, Quintero said. Even though the speed limit on Highway 99 is 65 mph, drivers can be cited for driving that fast if a CHP officer determines that it isn't safe, he added.

Drivers can also be cited if they become involved in a collision caused by the wet pavement, Quintero said.

Because of dry weather conditions during the fall, the Mokelumne River is not expected to flood, according to Charles Hardy, spokesman of the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

The storm - actually three storms - will drench the entire state, Pigott said. People won't be able to avoid the storms by driving to Southern California, he added.

Southern California communities devastated by October's wildfires will face mudslides during the weekend, Pigott said.

The cities of Lodi and Galt have asked public works and other employees to be available on a standby basis at night and during the weekend.

The city of Lodi has asked its tree-trimming contractor to have crews available if needed, said George Morrow, director of the Lodi Electric Utility Department.

In Galt, Public Works Director Gregg Halladay said Thursday that crews spent the last couple of days locating standby generators to maintain police communications, clearing out storm drains and filling sandbags in case of flooding.

As of Thursday afternoon, the city of Galt had 100 sandbags available for residents at the city's corporation yard annex, 550 Elm Ave., where Elm meets Amador Avenue and Industrial Drive. There is some more sand and bags that residents can fill themselves as well.

Halladay normally has one public works employee on call during nights and weekends, but for this series of storms, he has four on call.

"We're as ready as we can be," he said.

In rural areas of San Joaquin County, drainage ways appear to be clear, although county Public Works Director Tom Flinn says he wouldn't be surprised if some trees fall down.

"I don't expect anything serious," Flinn said, adding that the ground hasn't really been saturated with rain yet.

In fact, Hardy, the EBMUD spokesman, said he will be delighted to see the storm start to fill up Camanche and Pardee reservoirs.

"The more water, the better; the more snow, the better," Hardy said.

Pardee Reservoir is 86 percent full, while Camanche is only 48 percent full, according to EBMUD.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 2:36 pm on Fri, Jan 4, 2008.


    A really cold day proves that global warming is a fraud while a really hot day proves that it is a fact?

    In the meantime, we are left with steadily increasing average global temps, melting icecaps, swiftly changing climate patterns.....

  • posted at 5:06 am on Fri, Jan 4, 2008.


    Cold Arctic Storm.....inches of rain...feet of snow.....I thought we had global warming!



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