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Rains a mixed blessing for Inyo

July 25, 2013

Isolated thunderstorms brought much-needed precipitation to the Owens Valley but also caused widespread flooding and mud slides, including at Manzanar National Historical Site’s Merritt Park (above) and on U.S. 395 and S.R. 168 East. Several cars fell victim to one of two mud slides cascading over U.S. 395 near Haiwee. Photo courtesy National Park Service

Thunderstorms packing torrential rains may have been a welcome relief from the recent heat wave, but they also wreaked havoc on local roads and highways in the form of flash floods and mud slides.
Inyo County was under a “Flash Flood Watch” Monday night and all of Tuesday as a monsoonal weather system moved through the region, bringing electrical storms, high winds and heavy downpours – which gave the valley more precipitation than it received all winter.
According to the National Weather Service, the Great Basin was one of two areas nationwide with the greatest “flash flooding potential” on Tuesday. Coming in at No. 2 was New England and the Hudson and Delaware valleys.
Local weather forecaster Dennis Mattinson explained the storm was a combination of monsoonal moisture from the east and an upper low pressure system from the Baja Peninsula that drifted north. When the combo reached the Eastern Sierra and ran into the desert heat, the result was convection – or thunderstorm activity, he said. More specifically, the result was “isolated, heavy downpours” which caused flooding throughout the Owens Valley, Mattinson said.
(Read more in the Thursday, July 25, 2013 edition of The Inyo Register.)

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