The first West Coast waves of a week of powerful storms arrived to provide strong evidence March will not be as parched as the month that preceded it.
Steady rain fell in Northern California Saturday and statewide Sunday.
In the Bay Area, a flash flood watch will stay in effect through early Monday due to the threat of localized flooding after intense rain and scattered thundershowers.
Forecasters say wind gusts above 45 mph are possible, with a wind advisory also in effect into Monday. A high surf advisory continues through Tuesday with breakers of 15 to 20 feet possible.
Fresh and growing snow blanketed the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, drawing droves of snowboarders, skiers and sledders, and ending a dry spell and raising hopes the drought-stricken state can get much needed precipitation.
Droves of snowboarders, skiers and sledders packed Sierra slopes while tourists braved wet weather and visited San Francisco landmarks.
"It doesn't matter if it rains, we want to see as much as possible because we only have four days,'' said Olle Klefbom, a tourist from Sweden wearing a rain jacket and holding umbrellas with his family, who waited for a cable car on Saturday afternoon. "We want to go to Alcatraz this afternoon. But if it rains too hard, we'll go shopping instead.''
Dozens of arriving flights into San Francisco International Airport were delayed by more than two hours, and dozens more short flights were cancelled, officials said.
Meanwhile, slick roads contributed to accidents, water logging and landslides threatened streets and structures across the Bay Area.
The heavy rain and blustery winds also uprooted trees in Novato, San Francisco and Occidental, where a house was crushed, but not before a resident and her dog were saved
In Lafayette, a tree landed on power lines, knocking out power in an entire neighborhood.
Elsewhere too, it was more of the same.
At its height Saturday night, 16,000 PG&E customers in the Bay Area found themselves in the dark because of the storm.
PG&E set up an emergency operations center in San Francisco to help respond to storm-related issues. As of Sunday, some crews were still working to clear up from the previous night’s storm while others were preparing for the upcoming onslaught of rain and wind.
The agency’s meteorology department is helping crews by monitoring weather, PG&E’s Director of Restoration and Control Mike Swanson said Sunday.
"They guide us to where do we need resources, where do we anticipate having outages due to weather impacts so in advance of that weather system coming through, we move resources to those locations so we're prepared to protect the public," he said.
Meanwhile, in Pacifica, city leaders breathed a sigh of relief because the weekend’s storms did not worsen cliff erosion.
Officials plan to fix a damaged sea wall along Beach Boulevard starting Monday. They are also expected Tuesday to demolish two apartment complexes on the 300 block of Esplanade Avenue that are teetering on the edge of the cliff.
"It's not safe anymore," said Lorie Tenfrow with the city of Pacifica. "If we wait and there is some catastrophic storm or earthquake or some other event, that building could end up on the beach below."
The demolition will cost the city roughly $200,000 and leaders hope to get reimbursed by the property owner who they say failed to take timely action to address the property’s problems.
"I wish the private property owner had taken the responsibility to demolish the building and take care of it, but we are where we are," Tenfrow said.
The San Lorenzo River, with a flood level of 18 feet, peaked at 18.12 feet, Soquel Creek, with a flood level of 14.5 feet, peaked at 16.31 feet, and Corralitos Creek, with a flood level of 11.5 feet, peaked at 12.87 feet, Santa Cruz County Communication Manager Jason Hoppin said.
American Red Cross evacuation centers were established at Jade Street Park in Capitola and at the Zayante Fire Station to help residents who were asked to evacuate amid rising water levels.
Along the coast at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a wild sea otter sought shelter from stormy seas in the aquarium's Great Tide Pool so she could give birth, and she had her pup in full view of a crowd of visitors and staffers.
"There it is!'' someone shouted and a round of applause followed as the single pup came into the world on a large outcropping of rock amid a smattering of rain.
A seven-day total could approach 20 inches of rain in Northern California and up to three inches in the southern end of the state.
Farther north, a 48-hour winter storm warning went into effect in the state's far northwestern and central areas as well as the Sierra Nevada, where snow totals could range from 2 feet to 4 feet at elevations above 8,000 feet. Sierra snow levels will lower to near 4,000 feet by Sunday, forecasters said.
The Sierra snowpack, which normally stores about 30 percent of California's water supply, was only 83 percent of the March 1 average when it was measured earlier this week. That's much better than a year earlier, but after years of drought nearly all the state's major reservoirs hold far less water than average by this time of year, the Department of Water Resources said.
Starting on Monday and continuing into the rest of next week, ample moisture will be pulled in from the Gulf of Mexico ahead of a slow moving cold front, leading to days of rain for a large swath of the central and southern U.S., stretching from the central Gulf Coast up through to the Ohio Valley.
Bay City News contributed to this report.