Have you ever noticed that sometimes the month of May doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be spring or summer?
Well, get ready for another week of May’s identity crisis as temperatures creep up toward triple digits during the week, then plummet during a potentially drizzly weekend.
“May is a very changeable month,” said Cindy Bean, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Hanford station. “We can often look forward to a roller-coaster ride in May.”
Beginning today, and continuing Wednesday and Thursday, Bakersfield will be more summerlike, as high temperatures soar to between 15 and 20 degrees above normal.
But the high temps won’t just cause residents to kick on their air conditioners. Warmer days and nights in the Sierra Nevada mountains are expected to bring about significant melting of this year’s massive snowpack, causing California rivers to surge and possibly overflow their banks — not just this week, but for weeks to come.
Water safety should be on the minds of anyone thinking about playing in any of these rivers, including the mighty Kern, Bean said.
Kern River Water Master Dana Munn wasn’t worried Monday. For one, Isabella Lake stood at less than 271,000 acre feet Monday, giving Munn more than 90,000 acre feet of wiggle room before reaching the “restricted pool” limit of about 363,000 acre feet set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Before the restriction was put in place, the lake’s capacity was 568,000 acre feet. But it will remain at a reduced capacity until the Corps’ dam improvement project is complete.
Every week, Munn receives snowmelt estimates from the state Department of Water Resources. Those estimates are plugged into a computer model, and the lake and river are managed based on that information, combined with the needs of downstream users and other factors.
“It’s a moving target,” Munn said.
Indeed. After the expected three-day heat wave — highs in Bakersfield should reach 97 on Wednesday and Thursday — a low-pressure system from the Gulf of Alaska is expected to drop into California, cooling things off dramatically.
Late Friday through the weekend, unsettled weather is expected, with a high of 90 on Friday, 76 on Saturday and 74 on Sunday, Bean said.
Bakersfield has only a slight chance of seeing any rain — a 20-percent likelihood — with the best chance coming on Sunday. Snow levels in the mountains are expected to drop to between 6,000 and 7,000 feet.
But it’s May, after all, so you never know.