Rain and wind batter state, Valley

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webmaster | 03/15/12
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A late winter storm has brought heavy rain and winds to Central and Northern California, flooding roads, downing trees and causing isolated power outages. And more rain is on the way over the next couple of days and the weekend, forecasters say, spelling good news for what has been an unusually dry winter.

Marin and the mountains of Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties have been among the heaviest hit areas so far, with rainfall totals in the 24-hour period starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday as high as 6 inches, said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“This is fairly normal,” Anderson said. “But it will probably seem highly unusual because we haven’t seen this type of rain this year. It’s been so dry.”

In Sonoma County, state Route 12 was shut down because of flooding on Wednesday morning. The California Highway Patrol reported that several vehicles became stuck there.

Elsewhere in Sonoma, downed trees closed parts of several rural roads, and three homes — two in Monte Rio and one in Healdsburg — were damaged when trees came down on them. Nobody was injured, according to the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa.

Rain was expected to taper off last night, with another storm system moving in today and continuing through the weekend, when thunderstorms and small hail are possible, Anderson said.

The snow level on Saturday will drop to 2,000 feet, meaning some of the mountains around the San Francisco Bay area could see a dusting.

Snowfall, meanwhile, will continue in the Sierra, which has already seen as much as 22 inches of snow at higher elevations. Chains were required for vehicles traveling on Interstate 80, the main highway between Northern California and Nevada, although the requirement was lifted later in the morning.

The roadway was closed for more than an hour Wednesday morning when a power line went down due to wind and rain, said Rochelle Jenkins, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Transportation.

California is well below its average precipitation totals for the year, so the storms will help. The state’s snowpack was 34 percent of normal as of Wednesday morning, up a couple of percentage points from the previous day, said Maury Roos with the California Department of Water Resources.

That number is expected to go up as a colder storm system moves in this weekend, he said.

“We’re hopeful that what seemed to be a pretty grim year is going to turn out okay although still quite a bit less than average,” he said.

 

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