Local News

Saturday, Dec 18 2010 07:18 PM

Bakersfield sees record rainfall for date

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Workers pile sandbags in front of their doors at Name Your Price thrift store on Chester Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets Saturday evening as it continued to rain.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Vehicles roll right through the partially flooded section of 23rd Street and Chester Avenue Saturday afternoon after it had rained in Bakersfield and around Kern County most of the day.

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BY CHRISTINE L. PETERSON, Californian breaking news editor cpeterson@bakersfield.com

You may think you tromped through a lot of raindrops Saturday -- and if you were outdoors, you'd be right.

Bakersfield set a record for Dec. 18 rainfall with at least 1.14 inches as of 7 p.m., more than triple the .30-inch record set in 1921, said Jim Bagnall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford. And the day wasn’t even over.

That swift rain flooded downtown Bakersfield streets, taxing storm drains, pushing people to sweep water away from their businesses and even, in at least one case, lay down sandbags.

Name Your Price thrift store manager Chris Ott worked with general manager Walter Hines to put stuffed bags in front of their shop as the rain slammed down around 4 p.m. They both expressed concern for the clothes in the shop.

Hines, who had just driven in from Frazier Park with a load of furniture for the store on Chester Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets, said he'd "never seen Chester this bad."

Ott said they called the fire department about the water, but were told there were so many emergencies that sandbags might be a good choice. Turns out the previous tenants had left some at the back of the store.

The rain also led to reports of leaks in buildings, rocks in the roadway on Highway 223, traffic control on Union Avenue and flooding in Buttonwillow.

One lane of Highway 178 through the canyon was closed starting around 5:15 p.m. CalTrans reported rockslides, and the road was slated to be closed throughout the night.

A high-wind advisory was in effect Saturday night on Interstate 5 from the Los Angeles-Kern County border to 25 miles south of Bakersfield, CalTrans reported.

In the near term, snow levels are expected to stay high, above 7,000 feet, but toward the middle of the week the snow level could fall to 5,000 feet, Bagnall of the weather service said.

The storm isn't over yet.

At least through Wednesday, we have a "pretty good shot for rain. It won't be continuous, but periods of rain, definitely," Bagnall said.

He forecasts up to an inch of rain in Bakersfield in the next few days, and there could be flood watches in the mountain areas.

"Bakersfield does not typically get a whole lot of rain, so it does not take a lot to get people too excited," Bagnall said.

Expect highs of 57 degrees on Sunday in Bakersfield, 55 on Monday, 61 on Tuesday, 63 on Wednesday and 59 on Thursday. The normal high this time of year would be about 56 degrees.

Overnight lows in Bakersfield are expected to be about 43 degrees on Sunday, 46 on Monday, 44 on Tuesday and come Wednesday, dipping to 39 when a low-pressure system is expected to push through and take the rain away.

Santa Claus might have to tell his reindeer to be extra careful on Christmas Eve, when it's expected to be foggy.

"Rudolph's specialty is foggy Christmas Eves, so Santa is prepared," Bagnall said.

Friday is forecast to be dry -- but then by Christmas night, rain may return.

-- Californian staff photographer Casey Christie contributed to this report.

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