California rains threaten grapes and other Central Valley crops

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A winter rainstorm that hit northern California with heavy rains and high winds on Monday moved into the central San Joaquin Valley, threatening crops such as table grapes which are still being harvested .

The rain defied forecasts and held up for hours as the wind blew through Fresno and neighboring communities, the Fresno Bee reported. Precipitation began Monday morning in northern Fresno and earlier in Merced and the North Valley.

The storm was expected to drop an inch or more of rain in the Fresno area on Monday and up to four to six inches of rain in the foothills.

The storm, fed by an atmospheric river, was classified as Category 5, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Much like tornadoes and hurricanes, atmospheric river storms are rated on a sliding intensity scale with Category 5 at the top, described as “primarily hazardous”.

Nighttime winds knocked down branches in the area Monday morning in Fresno and further south of the central San Joaquin Valley, making driving dangerous in places.

Heavy rains in table grape production areas with fruit yet to be harvested could either reduce the amount of salable supply or impact the condition and shelf life of the grapes.

In September, Dirk Winkelmann, president of Vanguard Direct, said California was about three to four weeks ahead of its harvest. In addition, he said that due to the weather conditions, the condition of the fruits was not optimal for long-term storage.

These two factors would limit the state’s ability to reach its late market window in December and early January. Therefore, any negative impact from this week’s rainfall would likely create even better opportunities for the southern hemisphere’s primary suppliers of grapes, such as Peru and northern Chile.

No solution to drought in California

The Los Angeles Times reports that drought relief is tempered by a longer-term reality: Once the storm passes, the drought that plagues much of the state will still be there, experts say.

It’s been very, very dry for two years, ”said Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Science. “A storm does not end this kind of drought. “

Bill Patzert, a retired climatologist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, sounded an even louder alarm, warning that a rainy winter would not be enough to bring the state out of its parched state.

He estimates that it would take 17 years of above-normal precipitation and snowfall to fill Lake Mead, a major water source for the West, which has fallen to extremely low levels.

“There is no quick fix to drought,” Patzert said.


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