El Niño Storm Dumps Rain on Bay Area, Snow on Sierra Nevada

A flash flood watch is in place in the Bay Area and is expected to remain in effect through Monday.

Rain and wind returned with a vengeance Saturday afternoon, sending people scurrying through downtown San Francisco just hours after a dry spell that spared the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

A flash flood watch is in place in the Bay Area and is expected to remain in effect through Monday.

The rain triggered a mudslide Sunday morning in San Mateo County and temporarily closed State Route 35 at Crazy Pete's Road. It also caused a landslide in the North Bay. Bolinas-Fairfax Road near Lake Alpine will remain closed to traffic into Sunday, officials said.

A mudslide in Moraga also displaced a family indefinitely, as East Bay Mud works to clean up the mess. 

The downpour also toppled trees around 3:30 p.m., briefly blocking traffic in both directions on Highway 1, north of Bear Valley Road in Marin County. Fallen trees were also reported in Oakland and Pacifica. 

PG&E crews reported 1,473 power outages as of 6 p.m. Saturday, of which at least 248 were in San Francisco, 11 in the South Bay, 814 in the East Bay, 139 in the North Bay and 261 on the Peninsula.

In Pacifica, crews demolished an apartment complex at 320 Esplanade Avenue, which poses a public safety threat because it sits atop a cliff that, after being pummeled by storms, is crumbling. 

The fresh system follows a late week soaking that gave a brief blast to Southern California while closing schools and snarling traffic in the North Bay on Friday, where rivers swelled and flood risk was high.

As of 3 p.m. Saturday, more than 3 inches of rain had fallen in Marin County's Kentfield in 72 hours while the unincorporated town of Venado in Sonoma County had seen nearly 8.5 inches of rain.

However, the rain that pelted California for days was held at bay Saturday morning for revelers at a noontime St. Patrick's Day parade.

Spectators braved grey skies for the festive parade, some wearing ponchos and hats to ward against cooler temperatures and possible rain. But the weather cooperated, allowing dancers and baton twirlers decked in green to march rain-free.

Further north during the weather lull, an assistant manager at Friedman's Home Improvement in Santa Rosa reported little shopping activity.

"It hasn't been raining too much, but we do expect more rain coming this afternoon," Jennifer Glaze said. "We have sand available, along with bags for people who are having flooding issues."

Road closures included a portion of California Highway 1 in Mendocino County on Friday where slides nearly toppled a California Department of Transportation dump truck with an employee inside. The truck hit a guardrail — stopping its fall — and landed at a 45-degree angle. No one was injured.

Bobby Rehfeldt of Goodman Building Supply off U.S. 101 in Mill Valley, said Friday that most of the customers in the busy store were thrilled with the rain, although some are understandably unhappy about leaks.

"Lots of people are buying tarps and roof patch and heat guns to dry stuff up, anything for getting water off the ground, and sandbags are flying out of here," he said. "It's just rain, and we need it."

In the inland mountains, another 2 to 4 feet of snow is forecast in the higher crests of the Sierra Nevada starting tonight through Monday. That snowpack normally stores about 30 percent of the water supply to drought-stricken California.

"We're looking forward to it," said Leslie Byrd, front desk supervisor of Aston Lakeland Village Resort in South Lake Tahoe. "Right now it's clear and it's very windy. We're almost full tonight because lots of people have come up to ski."

Powerful rains also slammed the central part of the state, flooding streets in Fresno and briefly shutting down the airport there.

In Southern California, Friday afternoon rain fell in torrents in foothill areas, dumping nearly a quarter-inch in five minutes in the northeastern suburb of La Canada Flintridge, the National Weather Service reported.

In the Hollywood Hills, firefighters rescued two hikers who climbed a tree and were afraid to risk a rain-soaked trail on Mulholland Drive, Stewart said.

Another round of showers is forecast for Northern California on Sunday. Then it's back to sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s throughout the state, said National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Bell.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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