SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – An atmospheric river engorged with moisture from the tropics took aim at Northern California Friday as local residents scurried to prepare for driving rainstorms, gusty winds and several feet of snow to the Sierra.
Several Bay Area counties and cities were issuing sandbags to residents living in areas prone to flooding while utility crews were gathering extra crews preparing for a wave of power outages.
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The National Weather Service predicted the potent plume of moisture would target coastal hills and mountains from Sonoma to Monterey counties. The brunt of the storm front would arrive in the area large Saturday and into Sunday.
Rough rainfall estimates predict around 7-8 inches for the Sonoma, Santa Cruz and Santa Lucia ranges, and several of the usual wet spots will likely receive upwards of 12 inches of rain over the weekend.
The forecast is foreboding for residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains where the hills are already well saturated from earlier storms.
Emergency truckloads of sand arrived in Boulder Creek just a day ahead of the storm.
“We’re prepping, getting ready for the storm, trying to prevent our garage from flooding,” said Boulder Creek resident Sonya Padron.
High demand for sandbags this week wiped out earlier supplies and the county could no longer deliver.
This sand bagging station along highway 9 ran out two days ago.
But the fire department stepped in and bought 25 tons of sand to help neighbors in this Santa Cruz mountain community protect their properties.
“Santa Cruz County normally provides it, but with all the demand they were probably inundated,” said Dan Arndt with the Boulder Creek Fire Department. “We made a few phone calls and were able to get a delivery of sand.”
Neighbors in Paradise Park near Santa Cruz already sandbagged their homes. But flood prevention is nearly impossible for some low-lying homes near the San Lorenzo River.
The owners of one home simply packed up and moved everything out.
“We’ll just prepare as best we can and whatever happens, we’ll deal with it,” said neighbor Weston Wheatley. “Hopefully it won’t be as bad as it’s said to be.”
Santa Cruz County Emergency Operations workers are concerned about the storm, potentially the strongest to hit the region in more than 30 years.
“It’s going to be the big one as they say. We do want people to take this seriously,” said Emergency Services Manager Rosemary Andereson. “We expect that there will be some flooding, certainly standing water on the roadways because of the volume of water we are expecting from late Saturday afternoon all the way through Sunday morning.”
Back in 1982, a similar weather pattern dumped more than a foot of rain on the rain-soaked hillsides that triggered a massive mudslide that killed 10 people in the small community of Love Creek.
Flash Flood Watches have been posted for the North Bay, Santa Cruz and Santa Lucia (burn scars) beginning at 4 p.m. A high wind watch will also go into effect for the Bay Area hills starting at 4 a.m. Saturday and lasting through Sunday morning.
The weather service is predicting that major flooding on the middle fork of the Feather River in Portola and on the Merced River in Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite rangers have warned visitors to be prepared to escape from rising water.
“There is a possibility that we may reach various flood stages throughout Yosemite National Park,” park spokesperson Jamie Richards told KCBS.
In preparation of the storm, Yosemite officials announce the park will close all roads leading into Yosemite Valley 5:00 p.m. Friday. There will be no visitor services available throughout the storm.
In San Francisco, forecasters were predicting the storm front would dump 3-6 inches by Sunday night while Oakland and the East Bay communities could see 3-5 inches.
In the Sierra, the warm storm front will push snow levels to 8,000 feet and above and dump as much as 4 feet of new snow.
Below 8,000 feet, the storm will produce potent rain storms that will dump large amounts of rain, threatening to trigger flooding concerns on the Truckee and Carson rivers.