Bakersfield’s big rain did not materialize overnight Thursday, but Mother Nature tried to make up for it on Friday as gusting winds uprooted trees and knocked out power, and pelting rain flooded some local streets.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Andersen said the earlier system dropped a stingy 0.11 of an inch of rain at Meadows Field between 10 a.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. today. Add that to the measly 0.02 of an inch that blessed Bakersfield on Wednesday and it adds up to nearly a half-inch less than the 0.6 of an inch the weather service predicted for Bakersfield.
But skied darkened Friday afternoon and much more rain hit Bakersfield and surrounding communities.
The NWS said there’s even the possibility of “a tornado or two” in the valley.
In an email update sent at 12:23 p.m., the NWS said strong thunderstorms are developing across the San Joaquin Valley and that activity will continue into the evening hours.
“A few will be severe with damaging winds, frequent cloud-to-ground lightning, heavy downpours, and 1-inch or larger hail,” the release said. “A tornado or two can’t be ruled out.”
Kern County Fire Capt. Eric Coughran said his department has received numerous calls from cities surrounding Bakersfield.
He said Taft, Delano, Rosamond and Wasco have suffered consequences of the storm. Numerous power lines have fallen and power outages have been reported.
Coughran said crews responded to a stuck elevator at the Medical Arts building in Delano, but nobody was in it.
Delano police were dealing with several fallen trees Friday afternoon.
Patrol Commander Raul Alvizo said traffic Highway 99 near Delano was slow due to flooding and an accident. He said city workers were moving fallen trees from streets.
Bakersfield Assistant Public Works Director Nick Fidler said he was unaware of any significant flooding problems in a conversation shortly before 2 p.m. Friday — but the city does sometimes find itself vulnerable to even short periods of hard rain.
“In a flash flood where it comes down hard for five to 10 minutes, we’ll always get some standing water on the shoulder, and some intersections, we’ll maybe get some water through them,” Fidler said. “Right now it looks like it’s subsided.”
Earlier Friday, both the northbound and southbound lanes of Highway 99 through Bakersfield were closed after a fiery crash involving a big rig.
At about 7:35 a.m., a big rig on the Highway 58 overpass over Highway 99 jackknifed and caught fire, and part of the cab was hanging over the side of the overpass. Fuel and antifreeze leaked onto the northbound lanes.
Traffic was diverted to Golden State Highway.
CHP cruisers, tow trucks, Caltrans vehicles and fire engines from both the Bakersfield and Kern County fire departments were on the overpass as of 9:30 a.m. The cab had been removed but the rest of the rig still sat on the overpass.
All the highway lanes reopened just after noon.
Another crash occurred earlier Friday at Highway 99 at Rosedale Highway, the CHP reported. A big rig collided with another vehicle in the southbound lanes at 7:06 a.m., blocking all lanes.
Other incidents reported by the CHP Friday morning included: a vehicle spinning out of control on northbound I-5 just south of Lebec School Road; four vehicles involved in a crash on Highway 99 by the Highway 46 offramp; and four vehicles involved in a crash on westbound Highway 58 by the East Brundage Lane onramp.
So why was Bakersfield shorted on what meteorologists call “precip” Friday morning?
Andersen blamed the rain shadow. No it’s not a Cat Stevens song, it’s a phenomenon created by mountains standing in the path of a storm, which can block or reduce rainfall on the shadow side of the moving weather system. In the case of this series of storms, the barrier is the mountain range south of Bakersfield.
That’s why Pine Mountain Club, located in the southern mountains, received an estimated 1.61 inches overnight, and parts of Fresno saw a half-inch of rain.
Bakersfield, Andersen said, could get close to one-quarter inch Friday afternoon and into Friday night.