Reservoirs filling as rain falls
Releases from Oroville Dam will keep the Feather River above its traditional banks as more storms line up off the California coast.
But most flood concerns appear to be south of Sacramento, state and federal officials said Tuesday.
The recent series of storm systems are not typical of the season, officials said. The rains are forcing reservoir operators to release more water than usual.
“We have a little less room to work with,” said Gary Bardini, chief of the hydrology and flood operations office at the state Department of Water Resources.
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, Lake Oroville on the Feather River held 2.96 million acre-feet of water - nearly 84 percent of capacity - and was releasing 30,500 cubic feet per second.
The Feather River at Marysville/Yuba City was flowing at 47,406 cfs Tuesday night, according to the California Nevada River Forecast Center. The Feather was at 56.9 feet. Monitor stage is 65 feet.
As of 4 p.m., Bullards Bar Reservoir on the Yuba River held 816,764 acre-feet of water, or 84.5 percent of capacity. Outflow information wasn't available.
“This isn't the last of these weather systems,” said Elizabeth Morse, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sacramento. “We're talking about continuing patterns of rain with periods of dryness for this month. What we're seeing is the impact of storm after storm and the compilation of those effects.”
DWR, in its lower Sacramento River forecast
issued Tuesday afternoon, said “high flows will continue through the week but with most stages cresting by late (today).”
Meanwhile, emergency workers searched the rain-swollen waters of the Feather River between Marysville and Yuba City on Tuesday after a driver reported seeing someone in the water.
A woman driving east across the Fifth Street bridge reported about 11:30 a.m. that she saw a man in the water near the west bank, south of the bridge, Yuba City police said.
The Sutter County Sheriff's Department boat patrol searched unsuccessfully, said Undersheriff Bill Grove.
Officers searched the riverbank as far south as the Yuba City boat dock while Marysville police searched the east bank, said police Lt. Jeremy Garcia.
The search ended in the afternoon and will not continue unless new information emerges, said Garcia.
Two transients drowned in the Feather River during the winter. On March 19, fishermen found the body of Martin Gonzales Esquivel, 47, just north of the juncture with the Bear River.
The body of Ben Johnson, 51, was found March 12 north of the 10th Street bridge, not far from his riverbottoms camp.
Neither death was linked to earlier reports of people jumping from the bridges.
The weather system that moved through Tuesday and today is actually one slow-moving system spread out over four days, Morse said. The rains prompted the Weather Service to issue a severe thunderstorm watch that ended at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Marysville received 0.62 inch of rain in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday afternoon.
More rain could fall this week, with a 20 percent chance through Thursday, a 40 percent chance for Friday. The chance of rain remains at 30 percent through Tuesday of next week, according to the Weather Service.
“There really isn't any part of the state that is untouched by this,” said Andy Morin, senior hydrologist with the California Nevada River Forecast Center.
The current storm is the warmest since December, so snow levels should rise to the 5,000- to 6,000-foot elevation, Morse said. Recently, snow fell as low as 2,000 feet in places.
“This poses a concern because we have rain coming right after the snowfall,” said Bardini. That means more runoff in the river systems, he said. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is 165 percent of normal, he said.
The Weather Service is not expecting any huge storms that will overwhelm the river and system.
With the rainy weather expected to stay throughout the month, federal, state and local officials expect to keep one eye on the sky and the other on the rivers, hoping for the best.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.