Storm exiting Bay Area after soaking, flooding region

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU & AP) -- The strong weather system that brought downpours and gusty winds to the Bay Area was exiting the region Thursday night, hours after heavy rains caused flooding, uprooted trees and was blamed for travel delays at area airports and on roadways.

More than 100 flights in and out of San Francisco International Airport were canceled and about 360 were delayed for minutes to hours because of weather concerns, said Brian Horne, airport duty manager. Passengers were urged to check with their airlines for the most current information about delays.

Venado, a remote former lumber town west of Healdsburg, was hit the hardest as the storm moved from the North Bay into San Francisco and the Central Coast.  Some creeks in those counties were over flood stages, and other areas were poised to get a good soaking later. 

In San Francisco, the downpours flooded city streets and clogged storm drains as street crews responded to reports of fallen tree limbs. On the Embarcadero, the downpour of rain mixed with the swelling king tide caused waves to crash over the rail onto the sidewalks.

At Fifth and Bryant streets, a long line of people waited for the emergency homeless shelter. One man, Kevin Williams, says the rain meant no day labor work for him

CHP spokesman Officer Vu Williams said the San Francisco field office was busy with a rash of fender benders.
"We had a lot of crashes and a lot of collisions on the freeway," he said. "Especially a lot of solo vehicle collisions and rollover collisions which indicates people were driving way too fast for the conditions."
A PG&E spokeswoman said the outages were relatively small. Crews were said to be on stand-by through the night. As of 10 p.m. Thursday night, Burlingame was said to have 724 outages while Oakland and Pleasanton were reporting at least 100 power outages apiece.

By nightfall, San Francisco had recorded more than an inch of rain in 24 hours, with areas further north seeing 2 to 4 inches and 5 to nearly 7 inches recorded in some areas of the Sierra Nevadas. 

Late Thursday night, a tree collapsed on a home in San Anselmo although no injuries were reported but firefighters had to wait until power crews suspended power because of downed power lines. 

Thursday’s storm hit the Santa Cruz Mountains hard, where the heavy rain and gusty winds caused major flooding, downed trees and mudslides.

In Ben Lomand, roads quickly began looking like rivers as heavy rain pounded the region. In the thick of it all, Lynn Robinson who was protecting the building she works in from flooding.

“It’s the thick of the storm right now so we are just going to keep at it and make sure we can do whatever we can to keep the drains free, keeping it from flooding into the building.”

Other people are concerned about their homes. Brad Ferfes lives near the San Lorenzo River, now three- fourths full and rising.

"In the past we've had storms and rivers come right through the driveway itself and its crested up to the top,” said Ferfes. 

Those who live in the Santa Cruz Mountains said they're used to the rain. John Parker was at the Felton gas station, stocking up on gas for a generator he just bought after the power in his neighborhood went out.

"We got rain like a couple weeks ago but it wasn't this bad,” said John Parker of Felton. “It's getting bad.”

The rain caused havoc for drivers along Highway 17 into Santa Cruz. Signs were posted warning of a slippery and wet evening commute.

"It's been terrible,” said Tony Ansgarius of Felton. “I work in San Mateo so a long way away. It's been rough.”

Flooding also happened on the Highway 9 off-ramp from Highway 17. Caltrans used heavy equipment to clean up this mudslide on Bear Creek Road in Santa Cruz. 

Lynn Robinson is hoping the sun will be out Friday, so clean up can begin.

"I’m hoping the predictions that were so accurate are still accurate,” said Robinson. “By midnight tonight I hope we start seeing it lighten up.”

Another area of concern was where the Loma Fire happened in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Homeowners fear the burned out areas may cause rock slides although there were no reports of any late Thursday night.

The system was slowing moving out of the area and Friday was expected to bring calmer weather, forecasters said.

"Tomorrow is all about clearing out," KTVU chief meteorologist Bill Martin said Thursday night.

The storm wasn't a surprise in the northern half of the state, which has been downright soggy this year. Forecasters say San Francisco's 12 days of rain in October were the most in a single month in more than a century.

San Francisco received 2.43 inches of precipitation in October, which was more than double the total from a year earlier.

Drivers were urged to take it easy on slick roads.

California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Barclay said drivers should avoid driving through standing water and losing control. 

"My biggest suggestion right now is slow down and have patience," Barclay said in Marin. "It's going to take longer than normal to get home tonight, don't rush."

In Healdsburg, antique dealer Greg Sheldon said driving conditions were difficult there. 

"Some of our streets are flooded here. I had two feet of water in one of my lanes," said Sheldon, who works at Antique Harvest. "There's just tons of water coming off, the ground is so saturated right now. Every field is a big lake."

Chris Daniels, who also works in Healdsburg and lives nearby in Windsor, said she was worried about getting home Thursday night. 

"I have a creek behind my house. It's just about ready to go over our road," she said. "I'm just hoping I can get back into my house"

In the Sierra Nevada, winds gusted to nearly 100 mph at times over ridgetops early Thursday, posing a risk of toppling trees weakened by drought. A winter storm warning remained in effect through 4 a.m. Friday around Lake Tahoe, where 1 to 3 feet of snow was expected at the upper elevations. 

Rain batters Southern California 

By evening the storm spread south and rain was falling on most of the Los Angeles area, which has seen barely a drop in recent weeks. The National Weather Service forecast anywhere from a half-inch to 3 inches of rain in Southern California through Friday morning.

Flash flood watches and warnings were issued for areas up and down the state, especially those where brushfires had denuded hillsides and mountain slopes.

That included areas along the Central Coast, where heavy rains were falling around Hearst Castle late in the evening. 

A half-inch of rain per hour would be enough to send those hillsides tumbling and the storm was expected to dump that and more in some areas, forecasters said.

KTVU reporters Jana Katsuyama, Azenith Smith and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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