Wet weather linked to downed trees, power outages

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- Interstate 880 reopened to traffic Friday afternoon after downed power lines on the highway blocked all lanes near Bascom Avenue in San Jose for two hours this morning, 511 transit officials said.

By 11:40 a.m., power was fully restored at Mineta San Jose International Airport after an outage affected the entire airport for almost two hours this morning, according to airport officials.

Heavy winds and falling tree limbs has downed numerous power poles in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties this morning, leaving tens of thousands of PG&E customers without power, according to PG&E officials.

As of 5:30 p.m., a PG&E official said there were about 17,500 customers in the Bay Area who remained without power, including 3, 914 customers in the East Bay; 1,255 in the North Bay; 19 on the Peninsula; 4 in San Francisco, and 12, 322 in the South Bay. 

Two transmission poles on the Central Coast were brought down and a PG&E substation in Salinas, where 25,069 people are currently experiencing an outage, was also affected.

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Winds as fast as 69 mph were reported at the Salinas airport starting at 5:30 a.m., PG&E spokeswoman Mayra Tostado said. Some 5,454 Monterey residents were still without power this afternoon.

PG& crews from other services areas are responding to the South Bay and Central Coast to help restore power, but in many cases downed vegetation is making it difficult for crews to access sites and complete repairs.

In Santa Cruz, 5,364 customers are still experiencing an outage.

Officials expect more outages to crop up throughout the day as heavy winds continue to blow in the area, Tostado said.

Residents who come across downed lines or power poles should stay away and call 911 immediately.

"We are facing very dangerous situations," Tostado said.

Tens of thousands of Santa Clara County residents are experiencing outages as of 1 p.m., including 16,929 in San Jose and 6,635 in Gilroy.

Golden Gate Ferry riders may experience delays during the evening commute after 4 p.m. because of high winds, heavy rain and strong currents, according to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

Larkspur Ferry riders are advised to take the earlier 3 or 3:30 p.m. return ferry from San Francisco.

Storm lashes SoCal

A powerful Pacific storm blew into Southern and Central California on Friday with wind-driven heavy rains, triggering rescues, calls for evacuations, toppling trees and power lines and disrupting travel and outdoor events.

With the storm feeding on an atmospheric river of moisture stretching far out into the Pacific, precautionary evacuations of homes in some neighborhoods were requested due to the potential for mudslides and debris flows.

Numerous flights were delayed or canceled at the state's airports.

"It's crazy," said Robin Johnson, an academic adviser at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "It's just pouring down rain. The wind is just going nuts."

"At one point the wind was so strong I'm surprised it didn't blow my windows out," retiree Phoenix Hocking said in a Facebook message from Carpinteria. "I now have a pond in my patio.  And my dog is starting to grow flippers so he can go out and do his business."

Using ropes and inflatable boats, firefighters rescued seven people and two dogs from the Sepulveda basin, a recreation and flood-control area along the Los Angeles River. One person was taken to a hospital with a non-life- threatening injury.

Mudslides and flooding partially closed a section of freeway and the Pacific Coast Highway in beach areas.

The storm took aim at Southern California but also spread precipitation north into the San Joaquin Valley and up to San Francisco. It was not expected to bring significant rain in the far north where damage to spillways of the Lake Oroville dam forced evacuation of 188,000 people last weekend.

The National Weather Service said it could end up being the strongest storm to hit Southern California since January 1995.

Rain and wind wiped out play in golf's Genesis Open at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where a eucalyptus tree cracked. Elsewhere in the city a tree brought down power lines as it fell on a car, and a person was hospitalized for possible electric shock, the Fire Department said.

By mid-afternoon, hundreds of trees and dozens of power lines had toppled in the Los Angeles area.

A 75-foot tree fell onto an apartment building near the University of California, Los Angeles, narrowly missing someone who was in bed, fire officials said. Four of the six apartments have been declared unsafe to enter, leaving 16 college students evacuated or unable to return home.

 Another tree smashed a carport and vehicles in the Santa Barbara suburb of Goleta. 

Knott's Berry Farm amusement park in Orange County closed because the weather. High surf pounded beaches.

Rain fell in some areas at rates up to three quarters of an inch per hour and wind gusts hit 55 mph in the Malibu hills, the weather service said. 

Total rainfall predictions ranged from 2 inches to 6 inches on the coast and from 5 inches to 10 inches in foothills and coastal mountain. 

In downtown Los Angeles, Uber driver John Kim anticipated extra business from people not wanting to walk even short distances in the rain.

"It's good for me," he said. "So much rain, I get busy."

With soil already saturated from significant rains this winter, forecasters warned of the potential for flash floods and debris flows, especially near areas left barren by wildfires.

The city of Duarte, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles, ordered evacuation of 180 homes below a burn scar. Up the coast, evacuations were urged for parts of Camarillo Springs in Ventura County and around an 11 1/2-square-mile burn scar west of Santa Barbara. 

"This is, by far, the biggest storm we've had in a long time," said Johnson, the UCSB adviser. "Might not be the best weekend to be a tourist in Santa Barbara."

Cal Poly, the state university in San Luis Obispo, was keeping an eye on an unstable hillside near a dormitory housing 275 students. A protective barrier was set up and some trees were removed, but students were told to be ready to evacuate.

Santa Anita Park near Pasadena canceled all its horse races Friday.

Pasadena canceled Saturday's annual Black History Month parade, citing public safety concerns, including possible lightning strikes.  

In Northern California, officials monitoring the stricken Oroville Dam on the Feather River said they were confident the reservoir would handle any runoff from expected storms because ongoing releases have been lowering the lake's level since its spillways were damaged last week.

"There is more than enough room in the lake to continue accommodating incoming water and the lake level will continue to be lowered," the state Department of Water Resources said Friday. 

Up the West Coast, after a week of snow and heavy rains, landslides were covering roads in Washington state. Commuter trains into Seattle were canceled Thursday due to slides, and Spokane County declared a state of emergency due to flooding and washed out roadways.

After five years of drought, California has seen a long series of storms that have filled reservoirs and loaded the Sierra Nevada with snow. Runoff from the snowpack normally supplies about a third of the state's water.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only about 24 percent of the state remained in moderate, severe or extreme drought as of Thursday. The latter category was confined to a sliver of territory northwest of Los Angeles.

The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.

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