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California Storm of the Decade: High Winds, Heavy Rains, Snow

Image: California Storm of the Decade: High Winds, Heavy Rains, Snow
The Golden Gate Bridge is seen through a rain covered windshield on December 11, 2014 in Larkspur, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 06:37 AM

A powerful storm packing hurricane-force winds capable of toppling trees and power lines and heavy rains causing streams and rivers to flood has sent crews scrambling in Northern California to clear storm drains while residents loaded up on sandbags.

The Associated Press reported the National Weather Service as saying as much as 8 inches of rain could fall on coastal mountains over a 24-hour period starting late Wednesday. Ski resorts in the northern Sierra Nevada could get more than 2 feet of snow.

"It's a short amount of time for that amount of water," Weather Service forecaster Diana Henderson said. "We are anticipating some localized flooding, maybe some downed trees and downed power trees. It could have an effect on a wide range of people."

The storm is expected to be one of the windiest and rainiest in years and could also cause debris slides, especially in areas affected by this year's intense and widespread wildfires.

Wind gusts of up to 70 mph were forecast on mountain tops, creating blizzard-like conditions.

In California's agricultural heartland, farmers were looking forward to the dousing after three years of drought.

Though workers would have to stop picking citrus, rain this time of year tends to make fruit bigger, allowing it to fetch higher prices at market, said James McFarlane, a third-generation farmer who grows mandarin oranges, almonds and alfalfa in Fresno County.

"If we're not getting some Mother Nature-dictated time off out in the field, that probably means we're going to have a hard time finding surface water in the warmer months," he said.

The rain and, more important, the snow falling in the Sierra Nevada that melts during the spring and summer fill the reservoirs that supply irrigation water during the hot, dry months.

In San Francisco, where as much as 4 inches of rain was forecast, crews removed loose rocks from a hillside to prevent them from crashing down, and residents were advised to sweep up leaves and debris in front of their properties to prevent them from clogging storm drains.

"We have crews working starting tonight in 12-hour shifts," said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for San Francisco's public works agency. "It will be all hands on deck."

Farther north, a series of strong weather fronts with high winds and heavy rains could lead to flooding and landslides this week in western Washington state.

The National Weather Service expects as much as 14 inches of rain between Monday and Thursday in the Olympic Mountains west of Seattle. And it expects as much as 13 inches of rain in the North Cascades east of the city.

Saturated soils will bring the risk of mudslides, while winds could topple trees.

High winds were also forecast in Oregon.

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A powerful storm packing hurricane-force winds capable of toppling trees and power lines and heavy rains causing streams and rivers to flood has sent crews scrambling in Northern California to clear storm drains while residents loaded up on sandbags.
california, storm, decade, wind, rain, snow
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2014-37-11
Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 06:37 AM
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