OAKLAND, Calif. - A potent atmospheric river barreled through the Bay Area, bringing high winds that knocked out power and flash flood evacuations from wildfire burn scar areas. Plus, heavy snow caused blizzard conditions in the Sierra Nevada.
However, despite all the worry, there was no major damage, despite some traffic accidents, trees coming down and disruptions to people's lives because the power went out.
Thousands of residents in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties were hit the hardest as they live in areas by a complex of wildfires ignited by lightning last August. The National Weather Service reported a half-inch of rain fell in that area in 15 minutes. Officials feared the heavy rains would cause mudslides. However, by Wednesday morning, there were no immediate reports of damage.
In fact, the flash flood warning for the CZU Lightning Complex burn area was canceled about 4:15 a.m., as the atmospheric river shifted from the area. But the flash flood watch was still in effect.
And as of Wednesday morning, about 5,000 residents in Felton and Boulder Creek were still evacuated.
"We were quite concerned depending on how the storm turns out," said Boulder Creek resident George Galt.
Julie Chmiel said she left her Boulder Creek home and she hoped when she returned it wouldn't be ruined with water.
Before the storm hit, deputies went door-to-door in the evacuation zones and tried to find people staying in evacuation areas who may not have access to phone service and emergency notifications. Those residents who didn’t evacuate were asked by deputies to sign a refusal waiver, officials said.
People in San Jose's Willow Glen were worried about flooding along the Guadalupe River, too. City crews braced for a busy night. They staffed up overnight to respond to downed trees, downed power lines and localized flooding. Residents went out to get sandbags.
However, by Wednesday morning, there was no immediate word of any damage or flooding reported.
In San Franciso, there was standing water on many of the streets including Gough Street heading toward the freeway. But that is pretty typical for many low-lying streets in the rain.
In the North Bay, residents also braced for the worst as heavy wind and rain, brought on by a winter storm, swept through the area. And the National Weather Service upgraded a flash flood watch to a warning as the atmospheric river arrived.
Wind gusts of 50 to 60 miles an hour Tuesday night in Rohnert Park caused a tree to crash into the back of the Rancho Verde Mobile Home Park. The two people inside were not hurt.
Rare snow was reported in Sonoma and Napa counties north of San Francisco at elevations as low as 1,300 feet.
In the East Bay, several parks initially closed by the park district through Friday were set to reopen Thursday at 8 a.m. due to the change in weather conditions.
In the end, the wind proved to be more powerful than the rain. Power was knocked out to a peak of 38,000 PG&E numbers. However, by Wednesday evening, that number dropped to 16,000 Bay Area customers.
Further north, the National Weather Service issued a rare blizzard warning for Lake Tahoe and much of the Sierra, forecasting up to 6 feet of snow falling on upper elevations and winds in excess of 100 mph over ridgetops.
Describing it as a potential "life-threatening situation," the warning was to be in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday through 4 a.m. Friday for the Tahoe area as far south as Mammoth Lakes, California.
A warning was also issued for widespread high avalanche danger on the eastern slopes of the Sierra because of heavy snow combining with wind from before dawn Wednesday through Friday morning.
Meanwhile, icy conditions in mountains north of Los Angeles shut vital Interstate 5 in Tejon Pass until early afternoon. Some truckers tried old narrow mountain roads around the closure and became stuck.
In the Sierra Nevada, the closure of Yosemite National Park was extended to at least Jan. 30. The park sustained heavy damage more than a week ago when it was battered by fierce winds that swept through California before the onset of the current storms.
While the upcoming storm could pose danger, it could help ease dry conditions that have left more than 95% of California experiencing drought.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.