A powerful storm lashing the West Coast has delayed hundreds of flights and left thousands of people without power in California and Nevada.
Up to 10 inches of rain is expected this weekend in parts of the drought-stricken region, but the rainfall won’t make a significant dent in California’s historic drought.
However, the storm is a welcome change after six dry weeks in the Bay Area. For the first time in recorded history, there was no measurable rainfall in downtown San Francisco in January, when winter rains usually come.
It would take 150 percent of the average rainfall for California to recover from the dry period, state water resource officials say.
However, snow is more important than rain because snowpack supplies about a third of the water needed by residents, agriculture and industry.
About 26 miles west of Seattle, an overflowing river inundated at least a half dozen homes on the Olympic Peninsula. Rescuers went door to door in Brinnon to check homes on a road partially blocked by a mudslide, Jefferson County Emergency Management spokeswoman Keppie Keplinger said.
The threat of landslides will persist into the weekend, and weather officials warn of flooding in several rivers in western Washington. Oregon also saw flooding on roadways.
In the Sierra Nevada spanning California and Nevada, strong winds blinded drivers, causing multiple car crashes. The wind snapped massive trees, closed ski resorts around Lake Tahoe and knocked out power to thousands. A 134 mph gust recorded early Friday near the Mount Rose Ski Resort southeast of Reno led the facility and two others to close.
At least a dozen people were hurt in multiple crashes on Nevada highways. No deaths were reported, but nine people were hospitalized in a crash on a stretch of US Highway 95A that involved at least eight vehicles. Three other people were hospitalized with minor injuries after five cars crashed on US 395 north of Reno near the California line.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, power lines were snapped by falling trees and the wind ripped through freeway and street signs. More than 60,000 people lost power. By Friday evening, 9,000 customers remained without power, Pacific Gas & Electric said.
San Francisco International Airport saw delays of up to 90 minutes and about 175 flights canceled Friday.
The storm is expected to drop rain through February 8, and the National Weather Service issued a heavy-rain, high wind-gust and flash-flood warning for the region through February 9.
The heaviest downpours are forecast in the North Bay, where up to 7 inches of rain is expected to overwhelm waterways and roadway-drainage systems, leading to flash flooding.
Rain has been nearly nonexistent across much of California and Nevada since December 20, halting hopes for the drought to improve. California’s second snow survey this winter found the Sierra Nevada snowpack is far below normal after a dry, unusually warm January. A greater snowpack translates to more water for California reservoirs to meet demand in summer and fall.
Heavy rains and high winds slammed northern California leaving more than 220,000 people without power.
The storm brought rainfall of more than an inch an hour in San Francisco and winds gusts of 140mph in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Flooding has already closed two major motorways in the area, delayed public transport, cancelled 240 flights and shut ferry services.
The rain is much needed in the drought-hit state but mudslides are a concern.
Power cuts were widespread, from the suburban area south of San Francisco to Humboldt, near the Oregon border.
National Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson said: “It’s a two-pronged punch – it’s wind and rain.
“Once the ground gets saturated and the winds are howling, there’s a bigger chance of trees going down on power lines.”
There were multiple vehicle accidents but no series injuries.
Rain and floods also led to rare weather-related school closures for students in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz County.
Some 240 flights at San Francisco’s airport were cancelled and delays averaged two hours, said a spokesman.
In Santa Cruz, a young child was trapped after an 80ft (24m) tree fell on his arm and shoulder,
Rescuers with chain saws cut it apart and the student was taken to hospital in a good condition.
In the small town of Healdsburg, cars were stalled in heavily flooded streets.
However, surfers welcomed forecast of waves as high as 15ft and unseasonably warm temperatures near San Francisco Bay and ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada were hoping for more than two feet of snow.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.