Water pools out in front of the Fresno County Library in Downtown Fresno. Credit: Eric Payne

Why it matters:

As atmospheric rivers bash Fresno and the rest of the California, Fresno city officials seek to make sure no one is left out in stormy weather.

The doors to four community centers will be kept open 24/7 until Jan. 15, as Fresno is expected to receive record-high precipitation levels due to a barrage of atmospheric rivers pummeling California. 

On Monday, Fresno city officials announced that its four warming centers will be turned into storm relief centers, so that any member of the public can take refuge inside. That includes the Maxie L. Parks Community Center, Mosqueda Community Center, Pinedale Community Center and Ted C. Wills Community Center.

“As you know, the warming centers were open as of 6 p.m. last night,” said Mayor Jerry Dyer at a news conference on Monday. “People who went into those warming centers were not asked to leave this morning. They can stay at our storm relief centers throughout the week.”

He added that homeless sweeps will cease this week. Each center has security, but at the Ted C. Wills Center, there will be a 24/7 police presence, since it “seems to get the most people coming to it,” Dyer said.

Thanks to a collaboration with the Poverello House, those at the storm relief centers will be provided breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with cots, blankets and water. Portable showers will be available at the Maxie L. Parks Community Center. 

“Throughout this next week, I have instructed our city attorney’s office and our code enforcement to not interfere with any of the encampments that we have as the storm is passing — but to go out to the known encampments and to pass out information as far as the free transportation, the 24/7 shelters across our city over the next week and the food services provided by the Poverello House,” said Fresno City Council President Tyler Maxwell at the news conference.

The centers have been opened up as Fresno and much of the rest of Northern and Central California are battered by several atmospheric rivers. That level of precipitation is normal for the Pacific Northwest but unusual for Central California, said Antoinette Serrato, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 

By Monday late afternoon, Fresno got 1.26 inches of rain, Serrato said. 

“I think the biggest thing that we want to get out to the public is to avoid crossing flooded areas at all costs,” Serrato said. “People don’t know how deep water is in an intersection and they can’t really tell. If you see a flooded roadway, just turn around.”

Since October, Fresno has gotten 7.83 inches of rain, more than double what the National Weather Services considers normal for Fresno by this time of year — which is 3.88 inches of rain based on an average of the last three decades of precipitation levels, Serrato said. 

Fresno is expected to get another half-inch of rain on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the city will get a reprieve from the rain, although it will be overcast until Friday. 

Beginning Friday afternoon, Fresno will begin getting more rain heading into the weekend. On Saturday, Serrato said to expect another downpour that will last at least into Sunday. 

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Omar Shaikh Rashad is the government accountability reporter for Fresnoland.

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