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California storm causing more losses and fatalities

California storm causing more losses and fatalities

SAN FRANCISCO — Heavy rains, strong winds, power outages and evacuations rolled across California on Thursday as a second massive storm in a week overwhelmed parts of the state and was blamed for at least two deaths.

The storm began to ease in the San Francisco Bay Area Thursday morning, though it was still raining. It has dumped precipitation over most of the state and is expected to continue through Thursday afternoon.

The area then rests briefly before another storm — part of a series that could continue into next week — hits on Friday.

Rain totals for the area were lower than the highest forecasts but still high. Areas particularly prone to rain could have had as much as 10 inches of rain, but in the end places like the Big Sur coast and Santa Cruz mountains got more in the 5 to 6 inch range, said Brayden Murdock, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service’s San office Francisco Bay.

GRAPHIC:Atmospheric flow drenching California

The storm caused significant damage throughout the Santa Cruz County south of San Francisco. Piers in popular beach towns like Capitola and Seacliff were badly damaged, the county said.

San Francisco recorded its wettest 10 days since 1871, with 10.33 inches of rain falling between December 26 and January 4, the National Weather Service said.

The rain was a tremendous amount of rainfall in America’s most populous state, which typically enjoys a dry, mostly Mediterranean climate. The deluge on the drought-parched ground led to fears of mudslides; winds that could topple weakened trees; and runoff that could overwhelm urban areas with flooding.

Flood warnings were in effect Thursday in six San Francisco Bay Area counties as rain that hit higher elevations on Wednesday made its way downhill.

“Some places that are really far downstream are finally getting these flood waters today,” said Brayden Murdock, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service’s San Francisco Bay office.

The weather service is warning of severe weather for another week

The pattern of atmospheric flow events along the west coast is expected to continue for another week, the weather service warned Thursday.

“This pattern is expected to continue into week 1 (January 6-12) and likely into week 2 (January 13-19) as several more influential atmospheric flow events are expected,” the weather service said in an update on Thursday .

With persistent dangerous winds, snow and rain, the weather service said flood risks are expected to worsen in parts of the West Coast, particularly parts of California. California and parts of southern Nevada and Arizona have a moderate risk of heavy rain.

Strong winds are also possible over parts of the California and Oregon coasts, according to the weather service.

More storms in California

A week’s worth of storms have been secured over the Pacific and will begin to hit the California coast on Friday night. While each will be less intense than Wednesday’s and New Year’s storms, they will still bring water to already saturated soils and crowded waterways.

“It’s just a conveyor of these gravure systems,” Burdock said. “Much of that next week will be focused on monitoring rivers and streams for flooding.”

“Rain rates above 1 inch per hour can cause rapid water surges and mud (and) rockfalls,” Weather Prediction Center forecaster Paul Ziegenfelder said Thursday

The “bomb cyclone” — a storm amplified by a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure — inundated large parts of the state Wednesday and Thursday morning, bringing much-needed rain well into Marin County and San Diego.

The strong winds that accompanied the storm caused major problems, knocking down trees and power lines. As of Thursday night, more than 73,000 homes and businesses were without power — down from the more than 180,000 customers left in the dark on Wednesday, according to

Wind gusts in excess of 100 mph were reported in Placer County’s Alpine Meadows, and gusts of up to 85 mph forced the cancellation of numerous flights at San Francisco International Airport.

Fallen trees delayed trains across the region, according to Caltrain.

Police in Fairfield, 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, said a woman died in a car crash on a flooded street. And in the Sonoma County town of Occidental, Fire Chief Ronald Lunardi told local media that a child was killed when a tree blew on a family’s home.

The weather change comes days after a New Year’s Eve rain forced the evacuation of people in rural communities in Northern California and the rescue of motorists from flooded streets. Some levees south of Sacramento were damaged, and on Wednesday authorities in southern Sacramento County found a body in a submerged car — one of at least four victims of that storm’s flooding.

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Flight disruptions in the midst of a strong storm

The storm caused flight disruptions at the Bay Area’s three major airports in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. Several airlines offered travel waivers for flights disrupted by the storm:

  • American Airlines has issued a travel advisory for those with flights to and from Fresno, Monterey/Carmel, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Rosa between Wednesday and Sunday. Travelers can rebook their flight before Sunday free of charge to a new travel date within one year of the original flight date, as long as it is in the same fare class.
  • Southwest Airlines offered rebookings for flights scheduled for Wednesday, for flights to and from Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. The rebooking must have the same city pairs and travel dates within 14 days of the original travel date.
  • Delta Air Lines issued a travel waiver for flights scheduled to or from San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and Fresno on Thursday and Friday. The fare difference will be waived if the rebooked trip takes place on or before January 8th.

“RIVERS IN HEAVEN” Graphics show atmospheric fluxes drenching the California Bay Area

What is atmospheric flux?

The storm, the second of several heading towards the California coast, is coming from across the Pacific Ocean. It’s what’s known as an atmospheric river — or a “Pineapple Express” because it originates near Hawaii.

These storms bring heavy rainfall and occur when a line of warm, humid air travels from near the islands across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast.

When it reaches the cooler air over the western landmass, the water vapor falls as heavy rain. Atmospheric fluxes are long, flowing regions of the atmosphere that carry water vapor across a strip of sky 250 to 375 miles wide. They can be more than 1,000 miles long – and carry more water than the Mississippi.

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Featuring: Kathleen Wong and Jorge Ortiz, USA TODAY; Evan Mealins and Alex Gladden, Montgomery Advertisers; The Associated Press

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