A powerful storm roared across Northern California Sunday, flooding roads and toppling trees. The storm also caused mud flows in areas burned by wildfires.
Strong winds and heavy rain were accompanied by the arrival an atmospheric river – a large plume of moisture from the Pacific Ocean, which was expected to move south in the coming days. The weather service’s Sacramento office warned of “potentially historic rain.”
Roughly 165,448 California utility customers were without power Sunday afternoon.
Flooding was reported in the San Francisco Bay Area. It closed streets in Berkeley and overwhelmed the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza in Oakland. By sunrise on Sunday, Mount Tamalpais just north of San Francisco had recorded over 6 inches of rainfall during the previous 12 hours, the National Weather Service tweeted.
The city of San Francisco ordered evacuations on a street where a 100-foot tree threatened to topple.
The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was the site of an overturned commercial vehicle Sunday, reportedly caused by wind.
Inundated by rain, the Oakland Zoo closed its doors to visitors Sunday.
About 150 miles to the north, the California Highway Patrol closed State Route 70 in Butte County because of mudslides within the massive Caldor Fire burn scar.
Near the Nevada state line, a tractor trailer collided with the wall of a bridge on Interstate 80, sending a fireball onto the road below and snarling traffic on the major thoroughfare, the CHP said. The accident resulted in no injuries.
“We have already had several collisions this morning for vehicles hydroplaning, numerous trees falling, and several roadways that are experiencing flooding,” tweeted the highway patrol’s office in Oroville. Please stay off the roads and please be safe. If you are out on the roads, please use extreme caution.”
Burn areas remain a concern, as land devoid of vegetation can’t soak up heavy rainfall as quickly, increasing the likelihood of mudslides and flash flooding that could trap people.
” If you’re near a burn scar, please prepare for possible debris flows,” the weather agency said via Twitter. If you are asked to evacuate or feel threatened by officials, don’t hesitate to do so. If it is too late to evacuate, get to higher ground.”
Multiple sections of state route 70 in Northern California were shut down as a result of rocks and debris on the roadway.
Flash flood watches were in effect Sunday from the North Bay to Big Sur in Monterey County.
In Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco, more than 3 inches of rain caused flooding, and authorities ordered the evacuation of 95 homes and an apartment complex, Mayor Chris Rogers tweeted. He said that a swift-water rescue team helped with some evacuations.
In the Mammoth Lakes area of the Sierra Nevada, snowflakes fell with the rain.
South San Francisco: Evacuation orders were in place in the Santa Cruz Mountains due to concerns that rain could cause debris flows in CZU Lighting Complex Fire burn scar. A warning was issued for parts of Santa Barbara County further south in response to the Alisal Fire.
Strong winds were also expected, with gusts of up to 60 mph at the windiest spots in Northern California. Elevations above 9,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada could get 18 inches of snow or more from Sunday until Monday morning.
In Fresno County, in the Central Valley, sheriff’s officials “decided to put the entire Creek Fire burn scar area into evacuation warning status. According to the National Weather Service, “
San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara counties could receive up to 3 inches of rain on Sunday night.
The Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles tweeted that people in the area should be on the lookout for flash flooding.
Recent storms have helped contain some of the nation’s largest wildfires this year. But it remains to be seen if the wet weather will make a dent in the drought that’s plaguing California and the western United States. California’s climate has become hotter and dryer, which means that any rain or snow that falls is likely to evaporate into the soil.
California’s 2021 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was the second driest on record and last year’s was the fifth driest on record. Record low levels are being recorded at some of the state’s most valuable reservoirs.