Bay Area gears up for heavy rain as holiday travel ratchets up

Mother Nature appears poised to throw a curveball into the Bay Area's way with holiday travel ratcheting up. The region is gearing up for several days of heavy rain as millions plan to take to the skies and roads over Christmas and New Year's.

"You should always have a flashlight, you should probably have a thermal blanket in your car and have bottles of water in your car," said Joe Hagan of Center Hardware and Supply in San Francisco.

Millions are expected to face potentially slick and windy conditions on area highways getting to their destinations ahead of the holidays.  

"Whether people are traveling for the holidays to visit family or friends, or just trying to get out to do some quick shopping, we’re asking people to slow down, take time getting where they need to get, and avoid driving faster than they typically would, especially with the coming rains," said Santa Rosa Chief Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal.        

Meantime, in the skies, AAA is predicting record air travel through New Year's Day. Nearly 8 million people nationwide are expected to fly over the holidays. With delays and cancelations possible amid the wet weather, area airports are reminding passengers to sign up for flight status alerts from their airline if they're available. 

As for those staying home, Hagan says now is the time to get ready. Items to consider picking up if you live in a low-lying area that is historically prone to flooding include a sump pump and free sandbags from your local public works department.  

At 17th and Folsom Streets in San Francisco's Mission District, the city's public works department alerted neighbors that a flood barrier would be going up ahead of the rain. Last January, a series of atmospheric river systems pounded the region and caused widespread flooding in the neighborhood. 

"The floods would get up to about here, and there was mud about this high," said Ricardo Ramirez, pointing to a spot on the wall of his friend's home, several feet above the pavement. "We come out here, and just move all the furniture…try to get everything above ground."  

Lowenthal says now is also the time to make sure that your gutters and nearby storm drains are free of debris and to tie down any loose holiday decorations that could be carried away by the wind.