SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Across Northern California, crews worked Monday to clear streets of fallen trees and branches and clear gutters clogged by rainwater from a massive storm that caused floods and rockfalls, and lost power to hundreds of thousands.
Despite the problems, rain and mountain snow were welcomed in Northern California, which is so dry that almost anything is classified as extreme or exceptional drought. The wet weather also reduces the likelihood of additional forest fires in a region that has borne the brunt of another devastating year of fires in the state.
When the storm hit on the weekend, people happily dusted off rain boots and jackets and the children stomped in puddles. Social media full of pictures showing windshields splashed with water droplets and single word posts: RAIN !!!
Earl Casaclang of San Francisco kept waiting for a rain break on Sunday to go out and smoke a cigarette.
“It was crazy! I always thought it would stop, but it just kept going,” Casaclang said on Monday as he went to his job as a security guard in the financial district. “We need it to keep raining, but hopefully not like this heavy.”
Big tech data centers raise concerns about western water scarcity
The National Weather Service called preliminary rainfall totals “staggering,” including 11 inches at the base of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County and 10 inches in downtown San Francisco, the fourth wettest day for the city.
“It was an unforgettable 24 hours for the Bay Area as the long-discussed atmospheric river rolled through the region,” said the local weather department. “We literally went from fire / drought conditions to flooding in a storm cycle.”
Northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, 13.82 centimeters (5.44 inches) fell on downtown Sacramento, breaking the one-day record for rainfall since 1880.
The storm was accompanied by strong winds that knocked over trees and even toppled two large oil rigs on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Pacific Gas & Electric reported on Sunday evening that 380,000 households and businesses lost electricity, although most had it back on Monday.
The water rose so quickly that two people and a dog had to be rescued from rising streams in separate incidents early Monday in San Jose. San Jose Fire crews found one person holding on to a tree in the Guadalupe River at 3:30 p.m. but could not find a second person. An hour later, the crews rescued a person and their dog who were stranded on an island in the middle of Coyote Creek.
As the storm moved south, rainfall levels decreased, although a flood warning was still issued for Los Angeles County on Monday afternoon.
Interstate 80, the main road through the Sierra Nevada to Reno, Nevada, was closed by heavy snow early Monday. In California’s Colusa and Yolo counties, State Highways 16 and 20 were closed for several miles due to mudslides, the State Department of Transportation said.
The same storm system struck Oregon and Washington, causing blackouts that affected tens of thousands of people. Two people were killed in the greater Seattle area when a tree fell on a vehicle.
Justin Mankin, professor of geography at Dartmouth College and co-head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Drought Task Force, said the cycle from years of drought to record-breaking rainfall due to climate change is expected to continue.
“This rain is welcome, but it brings these dangers and will not necessarily end the drought,” said Mankin. “California still needs more rainfall, and it really needs it at high altitudes and over long periods of time so that it isn’t dangerous.”
Christy Brigham, director of resource management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the rain was a great relief after the Caldor Fire burned an unknown number of the giant trees in the park along with thousands of pine and cedar trees.
“This is what we call an end-of-season event,” said Brigham. “It should end the fire season and end our need – to a large extent – to fight this fire.”
The Caldor Fire has been burning for more than two months and resulted in the unprecedented evacuation of the entire city of South Lake Tahoe in early September. Firefighters now consider it completely contained, a status that thanks to the rain now also applies to the Dixie Fire, which at just under 1 million acres is the second largest in the state’s history.
Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire Zone on Sunday, October 24, 2021 in Plumas County, California. Heavy rains that blanketed Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land that was burned during last summer’s forest fires. (AP photo / Noah Berger)
Over the weekend, the California Highway Patrol closed a section of State Route 70 in Counties Butte and Plumas because of multiple landslides within the massive Dixie Fire scar.
Cal Fire, the state fire service, was unwilling to end the forest fire season or cut staff to winter levels. “We want more rain to come before we think about downsizing,” said spokesman Isaac Sanchez.
Mankin said the long-term forecast for California shows drier than normal conditions.
“To end various aspects of the drought, you need a situation where parts of California will receive around 200% of normal rainfall over the next three months,” he said, adding that “despite this, it is really, really insane Rainfalls the winter will probably be drier than average. “
Associate press reporters Janie Har in San Francisco, John Antczak in Los Angeles and Brian Melley in Three Rivers contributed.