Hold onto your hats. A wet and windy storm is rolling toward Northern California and the Napa Valley.
Weather watchers are estimating that two to four inches of rain could fall Tuesday and Wednesday morning, with gusts of wind up to 60 mph.
Those predictions had grape growers picking as much fruit as they could on Sunday and Monday, before the storm was expected to plow through.
On Monday Accuweather meteorologist Ken Clark compared the storm barreling toward Northern California to a mid-winter storm and not a fall rain shower.
“This is not a puny first storm of the season. This is one of the strongest storms you can get. It’s going to be nasty,” Clark said. The October record for Napa is 4.66 inches of rain, which saturated the soil in the fall of 1962.
Jim Barbour of Barbour Vineyards said if there is four inches of rain, even thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon might suffer skin splitting. Such a large amount of precipitation will keep crews out of the vineyards for at least a couple of days afterwards, while the grapes dry off and the ground firms up.
Two inches of rain wouldn’t cause as much concern, he said.
Barbour would like to see the winds kick in after the storm passes through and dry the grape clusters out.
“We’ve been picking like crazy,” Barbour said, adding that some fruit is to remain on the vine because it isn’t ready yet.
That fruit, he said, “will have to weather the storm. Everybody has been waiting because they want more flavor. It drives you crazy.”
Barbour said he had crews picking in eight different vineyards Monday, as everyone was calling him to harvest their grapes.
Beckstoffer Vineyard manager Jim Lincoln said Monday his crews would try to get 150 tons harvested before the rain arrives. “We’re trying to pick everything we can,” he said. “Most of the fruit is ready to go.”
Varieties such as chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot have been harvested. What is left is cabernet sauvignon, which Lincoln said can best endure the wet weather.
“If there is three inches of rain, that could be a problem,” Lincoln said. “I’m looking for some Indian summer after this rain. But if there is another storm behind this one, there could be problems.”
The wet weather won’t hang around long, according to Clark. Sunny skies are expected to return by Wednesday afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-70s by the weekend.
The storm will be its strongest in the first half of the day Tuesday. By Tuesday night there should only be lingering showers.
“This storm is coming straight across the Pacific. There is a lot of tropical moisture and it has been working its way across the ocean,” Clark said. A lot of the moisture was picked up from Typhoon Melor, which hit Japan last week.
Clark said winds will be between 30 to 50 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some local damage due to the winds,” Clark said.
Barry Martin, with the city of Napa, said Monday the city has no plans to issue sandbags. Floods are not likely until after the ground has been saturated and local creeks and waterways are already flowing, which is not yet the case.
“The public works guys are monitoring the weather stations. We are keeping an eye on things. We can mobilize quickly if we need to make sandbags available. But I don’t anticipate a need at this point,” Martin said Monday morning.