BAY AREA (CBS SF) — A flash flood watch has been posted for the entire Bay Area through early Wednesday afternoon as the region braces for the biggest of this week’s storm systems, according to KPIX 5 Meteorologist Paul Deanno.

Tuesday’s storm brought widespread beneficial rainfall to the San Francisco Bay Area, with most cities receiving three-quarters of an inch to an inch and a half of rain between Monday evening and the break between storms Tuesday afternoon.

That break will only be a few hours, as moderate-to-heavy rain is likely to return by early Wednesday morning.  Another inch to an inch and a half of rain is likely to fall with this next storm, the third of the month. Winds will gust to 25-35 mph as the storm moves through, Deanno said.

A flash flood watch has been posted for the entire Bay Area through early Wednesday afternoon as the region braces for the biggest of this week’s storm systems.

The California Highway Patrol said its units responded to dozens of weather-related accidents Tuesday morning including a fiery crash  on eastbound Interstate Highway 80 in Emeryville.

The CHP said it received a report of a collision involving two vehicles on the highway, just west of Powell Street, around 5 a.m.  One of the vehicles caught fire and four lanes of the busy freeway were blocked for several hours.

Meanwhile, a car became stuck on a flooded frontage road near the Bay Bridge toll plaza at around 8 a.m.

CHP Officer Ron Simmons said Simmons said the car was parked on the frontage road overnight, then the high tide came up, combined with hours of rain, and the vehicle became stuck in the water. The people in the car were able to get out safely.

In Mill Valley, a downed tree blocked a road and caused a power outage leaving 210 residences without power.  At 5:23 a.m., police responded to a report of downed tree and downed power lines near the intersection of Buena Vista and Carmelita avenues, according to a police dispatcher.

According to weather service officials, Sonoma County had the most rainfall overnight, averaging between 4.5 and 5 inches, with the Santa Cruz Mountains coming in second with about 4.05 inches.

The brewing El Nino system — a warming pattern in the Pacific Ocean that alters weather worldwide — is expected to impact California and the rest of the nation in the coming weeks and months.

In recent weeks, a weather pattern partly linked with El Nino has turned winter upside-down across the nation, bringing spring-like warmth to the Northeast, a risk of tornadoes in the South, and so much snow across the West that even ski slopes have been overwhelmed.

As much as 15 inches of rain could fall in the next 16 days in Northern California, with about 2 feet of snow expected in the highest points of the Sierra Nevada, weather officials said.

While neither storms were huge, the ground around the Bay Area is getting saturated and Tuesday’s rain hasn’t had enough time to run off or evaporate, Deanno said.

The saturation will increase the risk of street, highway, and small stream flooding on Wednesday.  The local National Weather Service office has issued a Flash Flood Watch for most of the Bay Area through early Wednesday afternoon.

River flooding is not likely, but the drive to work or school will be a sloppy one for the first half of Wednesday.

Officials predict the heaviest rainfall will occur between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday. Rain will taper to showers in the afternoon, and there is a small risk of an afternoon thunderstorm.

Travel in the Sierra will also be tricky, as a Winter Storm Warning for more heavy snow continues there.

The good news is that, in addition to the local rainfall, the snowpack is really building up with the recent storms, according to Deanno. That is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to ending California’s multi-year drought.


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