Serial Storms to Pelt Bay Area

Dozens of flights were canceled at SFO

The first in a series of storms hit the Bay Area Wednesday morning. It didn't come as early as planned, but when it hit  - it hit hard.

The rains and gusty winds caused dozens of car crashes, downed trees and flight cancellations throughout the region.

And beware: Meteorologists say more is set to come in a series of storms that won't be done until the end of the weekend.

By noon on Wednesday, emergency crews were racing to help out with minor to moderate problems all over the nine-county region, but no major calamities were reported. Some of those rain-related problems included trees down in Woodside and Menlo Park, downed power lines in Santa Cruz, and lengthy commutes in the driving rain.

By 11 a.m., the North Bay, Santa Cruz mountains and the Peninsula were getting hit the hardest, while San Jose wasn't feeling all too wet. The winds, however, were gusting fiercely: Speeds were clocked at Poverty Flats in Santa Clara at a whopping 77 mph, 66 mph at Mt. Diablo, 53 mph in Los Gatos, and 45 mph in San Francisco.

No major accidents were reported by 11 a.m., but traffic was sluggish on U.S. Highway 101 near Foster City and San Mateo. Traffic on the Bay Bridge was also super slow.

"Traffic was terrible," said Bobby Edwards, who was commuting from Benicia over the Bay Bridge. His commute took an hour on Wednesday, a drive that would normally take him 25 minutes.

San Francisco International Airport's Doug Yakel said a total of 90 flights were canceled because of rain, low visibility and also southeasterly winds.

Anais Suchiam, who was stuck at SFO and hails from London - where it rains a lot - said she simply "couldn't understand" what all the fuss and cancellations were about.

At the summit in Santa Cruz, tree tops were blowing in the wind, and several emergency vehicles and police cars were lined along state route 17, hoping to prevent car accidents and warn drivers to slow down.

On NBC Bay Area's Facebook page, a poster named Welton C Flynn wrote it was "windy and pouring" in San Francisco and Chris Gulden wrote it was "pouring rain and wind in Antioch."

In Daly City before dawn, crews shored up hillsides with bales of hay after a one neighborhood was flooded with mud about two weeks ago. The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department along with a host of other agencies - was giving out free sandbags to residents who needed them, and the California Highway Patrol was tweeting out "drive safe" messages.

The rain should taper off by 3 p.m. Wednesday and not appear again until Thursday at 3 p.m., when another series of storms should batter the Bay Area.

Many are concerned about flooding in the North Bay and in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The San Anselmo creeks and rivers are among those at risk, so the city is handing out free sandbags and sand so residents can prepare for the wet weather. They remember the devastating flood in 2005, and a smaller one in 2008. And so, the city wants to prevent downtown businesses from being submerged in water, like in years past.

Here's how it breaks down according to the NBC Bay Area weather department.

  • Storm No. 1 arrived later Wednesday morning. This will be heavy on the winds and moderate on the rain. This is a Bay Area wide system that will hit the entire region. It arrived closer to 11 a.m. Rain totals will be between .25 to 1.25 inch.  The highest totals will be over the North Bay valleys.  Rain will linger into the afternoon. Widespread Bay Area wind gusts of up to 50 mph could also bring down trees and create power outages.
  • Storm No. 2 will arrive Thursday and will last into Friday. It is a traditional north to south weather system with rain starting north of the Golden Gate and moving south. This system has more moisture content with as much as five inches of rain falling the North Bay. The current model projections have the flooding risk the highest on Friday.  Local creeks, small rivers and streams will be at the greatest risk for quick rising water.  Large Bay Area rivers could rise as much as 3 to 10 feet. There are no flood stages expected at this timeYou can monitor conditions here.
  • Storm No. 3 and 4 are still developing, but has the potential for even more moisture with periods of heavy rains on Saturday and Sunday.  The first break in the weather won't come until next Monday.

The  storms will also bring high surf along the coast. Probably not enough for the Mavericks surf contest to be called, but that is a possibility so stay tuned.

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol are reminding motorists to drive safely this week/weekend by taking the following steps:

• Reduce your speed in rainy, foggy and windy conditions. Motorists should be aware that Black Ice may develop, usually near bridges, underpasses and low or shaded areas.

• Slow down and move over when Caltrans workers, law enforcement or tow truck drivers are working near the roadway.

• Be aware of electronic message boards and other road signs with information on incidents, changing road conditions, lane closures or detours.

• Make sure that vehicle brakes, windshield wiper blades and tires are in good condition and inspect your head and tail lights for maximum visibility on the highway.

• Call 911 to report any hazardous conditions.

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