Workers at orchards, vineyards and other farms in northern California are preparing for the beneficial rains and punishing winds of a powerful storm set to hit on Wednesday.
The state is in the midst of one of its worst droughts ever and this storm promises the desperately needed Sierra Nevada mountain snow that would have more of a beneficial effect on water availability than the warm rains that have occasionally hit the state.
“We are viewing this kind of storm with a dual approach, we’re really not that happy about it, but you have to look down the road at the picture,” said Noreen Aguilar, who owns the 10-acre Highland Orchard with her husband, who acquired it in 1947 .
The orchard is located in Penryn, California, a city in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain that is on flood watch through Friday .
Flash flood warnings have been issued for parts of the region ahead of the storm system, which is expected to arrive on Wednesday and continue through Thursday. The National Weather Service said it is “expected to be one of the strongest storms in terms of wind and rain intensity” since storms in 2008 and 2009.
Aguilar said the winds are the biggest threat to the mandarins because they can knock fruit off of the tree, and fruit that remains on trees can be punctured by tree limbs. She said they are expecting to lose a significant part of their crop so fruit pickers are rushing to collect as much as they can before the storm hits.
“It’s really a dichotomy, because we need the rain – we’re in the middle of a drought here – but we’re also in the middle of our harvest,” said Aguilar. “So for mandarin growers, it’s going to be good and bad.”
The heaviest rainfall could bring 3-to-6-inch rainfall totals to several regions of the northern part of the state.
Growers of dormant crops like wine grapes are eagerly anticipating this part of the storm.
“We’re glad its coming,” said Charlie Jones, owner of Lava Cap Winery in Placerville . “We need all we can get at this point.”
While farmers in this hilly region are looking forward to the rain, there are serious concerns about erosion. Jones and his workers were preparing by laying straw on the roads.
He is cautiously optimistic about the impact the storm could have on the drought, which hasn’t yet effected his grapes. He noted that at this time last year, there were promising rains, but they dwindled in January and February.
“If we have another year of drought, I think we will definitely see some effects on the vine and ability to get fruit to maturity,” Jones said.
The devastating King Fire that raged through the region in the fall has also created potentially treacherous conditions when mixed with the heavy rains. The burned lands are at greater risk for debris slides and flash-flooding, according to the California governor’s office of emergency services.
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