A persistent rainstorm pummeled Inyo County on Thursday and Friday bringing record rainfall and flash floods, which damaged and closed 17 local roads, created long delays for travelers on U.S. Highway 395, sent local rivers, streams and creeks surging and caused a breach in the Los Angeles Aqueduct south of Olancha on Saturday evening.
Bishop endured a record day of rainfall on Friday with 2.06 inches of rain on March 10, according to the U.S. Weather Service. Residents in Independence reported about 3.5 inches of rain on the day, with Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills also getting more than 2 inches of rain during the storm.
Local officials in the Eastern Sierra were concerned that the warm, atmospheric river storm would bring rain to high elevations in the Sierra, which would cause massive snowmelt on the region’s record snowpack.
The storm, called a “Pineapple Express,” didn’t appear to have a major impact on higher elevation snowpacks.
The lower flanks of the Sierra did lose snow due to rainfall during the storm, but higher elevations, from Aspendell to Mammoth Lakes, received snow, which continued into the weekend.
The rains on Thursday night and all-day Friday prompted Caltrans to close U.S. Highway 395 from Pearsonville to Bishop due to flooding. The highway was slowly reopened, section by section over the weekend, but ongoing drainage issues limited travel to the northbound lane through Olancha.
State Route 6 from Bishop to Benton, and State Route 120 from Benton to Mono County were also closed at various times because of flooding, road damage or snow. (See Caltrans Road information for the latest updates.)
The storm also snowed in U.S. Highway 395 from the Gorge Road north of Bishop to essentially the Nevada state line, with multiple closures due to snow taking place over the weekend. By Sunday, the highway was open, with chain controls, except for sections north of Lee Vinning and in Walker Canyon due to avalanches and avalanche danger.
For more on this story, see the March 14 edition of The Inyo Register.