September 13, 1996

A weak front swept through the northern San Joaquin Valley on Friday, bringing some surprise downpours to Merced County.

Heading southbound on SR 99 from Modesto at 1230, I noticed possible showers developing over the Diablo Range in southwestern Stanislaus County. After returning to my Turlock home and eating lunch, I logged onto the Internet to check NEXRAD images. Sure enough, KMUX (Monterey Bay) radar indicated light to moderate showers over southwestern Stanislaus County. KDAX (Davis) did not pick up the shower activity as well, but even that radar confirmed light showers in roughly the same area.

As the shower headed towards the valley, the sky became increasingly dark to the SW and S. By 1400, it appeared that most of the activity would be to my south. There was a brief sprinkle at my home at 1420, but not enough to wet the ground or my weather thirst. When the rain ended a few minutes later, I got in my car and headed south towards Merced County.

As I drove through downtown Turlock, it was raining lightly and the streets were wet. The roads became increasingly slick as I headed southbound out of Turlock on SR 165 and entered Merced County. Light rain continued to fall as I went through the small towns of Hilmar and Stevinson. Two miles south of Stevinson, I reached the junction of SR 165 and SR 140. The sky to the south still looked pretty dark to the south, so I continued down SR 165 towards the city of Los Banos.

A few miles after passing that junction, the intensity of the rain picked up, falling moderately for about 5 miles. About 10 mi north of Los Banos, I encountered rain heavy enough to turn the windshield wipers on high. I exited the rain shaft about a minute later, when I noticed that all of the vehicles headed out of Los Banos were dry and had their headlights off. I did not want to go all the way to Los Banos, so at the closest intersection, I turned left and headed east towards Chowchilla in Madera County.

When I got to a point roughly 6 mi north of the town of Dos Palos, I pulled over to get video of the shower, which appeared to be producing gusty winds off to the north around the town of Livingston. The road was not getting me to Chowchilla as quickly as I hoped, so I turned around and headed home. On my way back I went through Livingston, where roads were slick but there were no signs of any wind damage. Shortly after returning to Turlock at 1630, I learned that the shower did produce some gusty winds....near Chowchilla (ARRGH!!!) I was a little disappointed that I missed the winds, but since I encountered rain an intensity I had not seen in four months, I was satisfied with my 110-mile adventure.

At my station, I didn't pick up any measurable rain, but we're actually seeing some Fall-like temperatures in September for a change. Friday's high was only 76F, the lowest maximum at this station in 7 years.