Record-breaking storm douses drought-stricken California

Oct 23, 2021, 9:46 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2021, 3:30 pm
In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain,  Monday, Oct. ...

In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP)

(Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Across Northern California, crews worked Monday to clear streets of toppled trees and branches and to clean gutters clogged by debris carried by rainwater from a massive storm that caused flooding and rock slides, and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands.

Despite the problems, the rain and mountain snow were welcome in Northern California, which is so dry that nearly all of it is classified as either experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. The wet weather also greatly reduces the chances of additional wildfires in a region that has borne the brunt of another devastating year of blazes in the state.

When the storm arrived during the weekend, people joyfully dusted off rain boots and jackets and children stomped in puddles. Social media filled with pictures that showed windshields splattered with droplets of water and single-word posts: RAIN!!!

Earl Casaclang of San Francisco kept waiting for a break in the rain Sunday to go out and smoke a cigarette.

“It was crazy! I kept thinking it was going to stop, but it just kept going and going,” Casaclang said Monday as he headed to his job as a security guard in the Financial District. “We need it to keep raining, but hopefully not that hard.”

The National Weather Service called preliminary rainfall totals “staggering,” including 11 inches (28 centimeters) at the base of Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais and 4 inches (10 centimeters) in downtown San Francisco, the fourth-wettest day ever for the city.

“It’s been a memorable past 24 hours for the Bay Area as the long talked-about atmospheric river rolled through the region,” the local weather office said. “We literally have gone from fire/drought conditions to flooding in one storm cycle.”

Northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, 5.44 inches (13.82 centimeters) fell on downtown Sacramento, shattering the one-day record for rainfall that had stood since 1880.

The storm was accompanied by strong winds that knocked down trees and even toppled two big rigs on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Pacific Gas & Electric reported Sunday evening that 380,000 homes and businesses lost power, though most had it back Monday.

Water rose so quickly that two people and a dog needed rescuing from rising creeks in separate incidents early Monday in San Jose. San Jose Fire crews located one person clinging to a tree in the Guadalupe River at 3:30 a.m., but were unable to locate a second person. An hour later, crews rescued an individual and their dog stranded on an island in the middle of Coyote Creek.

As the storm headed south, precipitation levels fell, though a flood warning still was issued Monday afternoon for Los Angeles County.

Interstate 80, the major highway through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Reno, Nevada, was shut down by heavy snow early Monday. In California’s Colusa and Yolo counties, state highways 16 and 20 were shut for several miles because of mudslides, the state Department of Transportation said.

The same storm system also slammed Oregon and Washington state, causing power outages that affected tens of thousands of people. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in the greater Seattle area.

Lake Oroville, a major Northern California reservoir, saw its water levels rise 20 feet (6.10 meters) over the past week, according to the state’s Department of Water Resource. Most of the increase came between Saturday and Monday, during the height of the storm, KHSL-TV reported.

Justin Mankin, a geography professor at Dartmouth College and co-lead of the Drought Task Force at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the cycle of going from years-long drought to record-breaking downpours is something expected to continue due to climate change.

“While this rain is welcome, it comes with these hazards and it won’t necessarily end the drought,” Mankin said. “California still needs more precipitation, and it really needs it in high elevations and spread out over a longer time so it’s not hazardous.”

Christy Brigham, chief of resource management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the rain was a huge relief after the Caldor Fire torched an unknown number of the giant trees in the park, along with thousands of pines and cedars.

“This amount of rainfall is what we call a season-ending event,” Brigham said. “It should end fire season and it should end our need — to a large degree — to fight this fire.”

The Caldor Fire has burned for more than two months and in early September it prompted the unprecedented evacuation of the entire city of South Lake Tahoe. Firefighters now consider it fully contained, a status that — thanks to the rain — also now applies to the Dixie Fire, the second-largest in state history at just under 1 million acres.

During the weekend, the California Highway Patrol closed a stretch of State Route 70 in Butte and Plumas counties because of multiple landslides within the massive Dixie Fire burn scar.

Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, wasn’t ready to declare the wildfire season over or to cut staffing to winter levels. “We’d like to see some more rain coming our way before we look at reducing staffing,” spokesman Isaac Sanchez said.

Mankin said the long-term forecast for California shows drier-than-normal conditions.

“To end different aspects of the drought, you are going to need a situation where parts of California get precipitation over the next three months that’s about 200% of normal,” he said, adding that “despite this really, really insane rainfall, the winter is probably going to be drier than average.”

___

Associated Press writers Janie Har in San Francisco, Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles and Brian Melley in Three Rivers contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This combination of 2021 photos shows Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Kelce,, left, and Billie Eilish in...
Associated Press

‘Cheugy,’ ‘omicron’ among 2021’s most mispronounced words

“Cheugy” is apparently a lot to chew on. Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce have something in common — broadcasters butcher their names. And virtually everyone is having trouble with “omicron.” All four made it onto this year’s list of most mispronounced words as compiled by the U.S. Captioning Company, […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Voters sign in at Frank McCourt High School for New York's party primaries, June 22, 2021, i...
Associated Press

New York City poised to give voting rights to noncitizens

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City, long a beacon for immigrants, is on the cusp of becoming the largest places in the country to give noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. Legally documented, voting-age noncitizens comprise nearly one in nine of the city’s 7 million voting-age inhabitants. Under a bill nearing approval, […]
23 hours ago
Two Afghan men pray at a bus station in Herat, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, before they ...
Associated Press

Desperation drives thousands of Afghans a day across borders

HERAT, Afghanistan (AP) — Over the course of an hour on a recent night, the bus waiting in the Herat station filled with passengers. Mostly young men, they had no luggage, just the clothes on their backs, maybe a bag with some bread and water for the long road ahead of them. That road is […]
23 hours ago
Pearl Harbor survivor Herb Elfring speaks at a news conference in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Sunday, D...
Associated Press

Survivors gather to remember those lost at Pearl Harbor

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A few dozen survivors of Pearl Harbor are expected to gather Tuesday at the site of the Japanese bombing 80 years ago to remember those killed in the attack that launched the U.S. into World War II. Herb Elfring, 99, said he’s glad to return to Pearl Harbor considering he […]
23 hours ago
A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in...
Associated Press

Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher as virus fears ease

BEIJING (AP) — Asia stock markets followed Wall Street higher Tuesday as anxiety about the coronavirus’s latest variant eased. Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced. Oil prices gained for a second day. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained 1.2% after the chief White House medical adviser said the omicron variant might be less dangerous. […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Monday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Bellevue 70, Lake Washington 65 Black Hills 64, River Ridge 51 Capital 56, Shelton 48 Condon, Ore. 66, Trout Lake 45 Corbett, Ore. 72, Columbia (White Salmon) 53 Evergreen (Vancouver) 72, Centennial, Ore. 65 King’s Way Christian School 58, Wahkiakum 43 Lincoln 35, Peninsula 33 Mercer Island 52, Hazen 51 Newport-Bellevue 70, […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Record-breaking storm douses drought-stricken California