Melting snowpack doubling some valley river flows


The San Joaquin River flowing Wednesday afternoon, at what the California Department of Water Resources calls its max flow rate: 8,000 cubic feet per second.

“That’s about 29 million pounds of water per minute, moving through that channel,” Fresno Fire Emergency Preparedness Officer Jeffrey Guynn said. “So it doesn’t take much to get people in trouble.” 

Firefighters tell us a swimming pool, depending on its size, holds an average of 20,000 gallons of water. That means the amount of water in almost 200 neighborhood swimming pools, is currently flowing down the San Joaquin River, each minute.

That water comes from Friant Dam; almost 309,000 acre-feet of water was released Tuesday.

Fresno fire officials say, that’s an equivalent of an entire Millerton Lake in itself.

All of it, from the melting snowpack, flowing out to canals and rivers, including the San Joaquin.

“We all live in statistics,” property owner Jim Cobb said.

Cobb has owned property near the river for years.

He now watches these flows with his own computer programs, prepared to alert residents of Wildwood Mobile Home Park to evacuate if necessary.

“As long as I’m alive, at least, this mobile home park has the best computers they could have,” Cobb said. “And so, we just keep them informed.”

As of Wednesday morning’s readings, Cobb says, flooding isn’t likely, but he’s watching the temperatures.

Safety officials say, they’re most concerned about recreators.

“It’s taking a chance you don’t really need to,” Guynn said. “You can, you can find other spots to cool off.” 

Not only are the stronger flows, moving at several mph, dangerous, fire officials warn of the near-freezing temps under the water, which can cause shock.

Reporting in Madera County, Megan Rupe. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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