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Powerful Storm Slams Bay Area; Flood Causes Evacuations

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Waves crash against a seawall as people make their way along the Embarcadero in San Francisco during stormy weather. (AP Photo)

Waves crash against a seawall as people make their way along the Embarcadero in San Francisco during stormy weather. (AP Photo)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5 / KCBS) — The month’s most powerful storm slammed the Bay Area on Thursday, flooding roadways, knocking out power to thousands and triggering evacuations due to an overflowing river.

Late Thursday afternoon, evacuations were ordered for several communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains after the San Lorenzo River reached flood stage and continued rising amid the intense rainfall.

>> CBS 5 WeatherCenter: Current Conditions, Live Hi-Def Doppler Radar & Latest Forecast

Santa Cruz County officials issued a Flash Flood Warning and ordered the evacuation of more than 800 people in the communities of Felton Grove, Paradise Park, and Gold Gulch.

KCBS’ Betsy Gebhart Reports:

After activating sirens and a reverse 911 calling system at 2:54 p.m. telling people to leave the area, Santa Cruz County spokeswoman Melodye Serino said the evacuation order was lifted at 6:45 p.m.

Pescadero Creek also overflowed its banks in San Mateo County, triggering a similar Flash Flood Warning, but there were no immediate reports of any evacuations there.

Forecasters warned that Northern California could see at least another inch and a half of rain along with potential gale-force winds at the coast with this latest storm.

Wind advisories were in effect for the North Bay, San Francisco and the Peninsula, according to the National Weather Service.

The Bay Area was experiencing winds of 25 to 35 mph, with gusts of up to about 45 mph in some areas. In San Francisco, the weather service said gusts as strong as 38 mph were reported.

Thursday’s heaviest downpours began around dawn, and were expected to ease by the noon hour — although showers were forecast to continue into the evening.

“Thing are expected to calm down, but tonight is still expected to be rainy,” NWS forecaster Jeff Kopps said.

Along with moderate to heavy morning showers, hail was reported at the Sonoma County Administration Building in Santa Rosa.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:

The weather service also issued a Flood Advisory through Thursday afternoon for San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

A portion of state Highway 1 in Marin County fell away due to heavy rain. Caltrans officials said the slip-out was located at post mile 4.80, just west of Green Gulch Farm, and had reduced the highway to one lane in that area.

Flooding prompted lane closures along southbound Interstate 880 in San Leandro (between Davis Street and Marina Boulevard) and resulted in the closure of several schools in West Marin (Tomales High School, Tomales Elementary School and West Marin, Inverness and Bodega Bay schools).

“Most of our kids travel by bus and it’s just not safe for those buses to be on bay roads today with all the flooding and potential flooding,” Shoreline Unified School District Superintendent Stephen Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal also pointed out the danger of downed trees and branches.

“The ground’s really saturated, so the chances of major trees falling, etc., are pretty good,” he said.

State Highway 1 in Pacifica was shut down as was State Route 116 in the Monte Rio area due to downed trees and power lines.

A fallen tree also blocked traffic in both directions on Highway 84 in San Mateo County. The tree blocked the roadway about three-quarters of a mile from Portola Road in Woodside.

Altamont Commuter Express has canceled its trains Thursday and Friday due to mud and debris on the tracks in the Niles Canyon area.

“Our trains are still down in San Jose,” ACE spokesman Thomas Reeves said. “They’re not going anywhere until the track is cleared by Union Pacific.”

No bus bridges will be in place on Friday, he said.

ACE trains are tentatively expected to be running again on Monday.

>> KCBS Traffic Report: Current Road Closures, Commute Delays

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. officials said about 7,000 customers were without power as of mid-afternoon — with the majority of the outages occuring in the North Bay, particularly in the Inverness Park area.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

Other hard hit locales for outages included Los Altos and Sunnyvale in the South Bay; the Oakland Hills, Concord and Pacheco in the East Bay; and Pacifica, Pescadero, Loma Mar and La Honda on the Peninsula.

>> Clear Lake Close To Overflowing

Aside from bringing down trees and power lines, the windy conditions prompted the issuing of a High Surf Advisory for the Bay Area coastline through Friday night.

Forecasters predicted swells of between 15 and 18 feet that would increase rapidly and produce strong rip currents.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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