SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — Mother Nature pummeled both coasts early Wednesday, dumping several inches of rain across Marin County, creating a treacherous Bay Area morning commute and leading to more than 100 flight cancellations at local airports due to a nor’easter on the East Coast.
The so-called Pineapple Express — a huge plume of subtropical moisture from north of the Hawaiian Islands — roared into Central California late Tuesday with the northern edge sending heavy bands of showers into the Bay Area.
Marin County bore the brunt of the storm in the Bay Area. The National Weather Service reported that nearly 3 1/2 inches of rain had fallen in Kentfield over the last 24 hours while San Anselmo had received 2.48 inches as of 8 a.m., Mill Valley 1.88 inches and San Rafael had gotten 1.40 inches.
San Francisco had gotten nearly an inch, Santa Rosa had received 1.23 inches and 1.13 inches had fallen in Ben Lomond located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The steady rain made driving on Bay Area freeways extremely challenging. Wet roads played a role in a fiery crash on Highway 880 in Oakland at around 5:10 a.m. Two cars collided and then caught fire forcing the closure of two southbound lanes.
The freeway was completely reopened at 6:20 a.m., but traffic was backed up for miles. One driver suffered minor injuries in the crash.
The California Highway Patrol also issued a travel advisory for northbound U.S. Highway 101 just north of Lucky Drive in Larkspur because of flooding just after 1:35 a.m. The CHP said two inches of water was across all lanes of traffic and motorists were advised to use caution and reduce speed while traveling through the area.
A multiple-vehicle collision was reported on I-680 south just north of Scott Creek Road just after 12:30 a.m. No major injuries were reported in the five-vehicle crash.
At San Francisco International Airport the combination of a rainy Bay Area morning and the nor’easter on the East Coast led to delays and cancellations. By 10 a.m., the SFO duty manager said there had been 154 flights cancelled — about 12% of the Wednesday flight schedule.
Of those, 62 were for flights to/from the Northeast with the remainder of the cancellations being short-haul flights along the West Coast.
The FAA reported that some arriving flights at SFO were delayed by over 4 hours.
In Southern California, thousands of residents were told to evacuate their home has the biggest storm of the year bore down on the region. Among those were Kristine Sperling and her family in Montecito.
“It’s a matter of life and death,” Sperling said from Santa Barbara, where her family was staying with good friends after evacuating Tuesday ahead of a powerful Pacific storm that’s likely to be the worst this winter for parts of the state.
The Sperlings’ home wasn’t damaged by January’s mudslides but the family needed to be rescued after losing electricity, gas and water, and all the roads out of town were destroyed.
“We’re just not willing to take that kind of chance anymore,” the 48-year-old Sperling said. “What happened in January was just all of our worst nightmares.”
The rain began on the central coast in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and spread south across adjacent Ventura and Los Angeles Counties by early Wednesday.
The fourth nor’easter in three weeks moved through the winter weary Northeast on Wednesday, the first full day of spring, packing high winds and the potential of dumping a foot or more of snow from West Virginia to New England.
Airlines canceled thousands of flights and school districts throughout the Northeast canceled classes ahead of the storm that was expected to intensify Wednesday afternoon, with heavy, wet snow a threat to knock out power around the region. Shore towns were warned of the possibility of coastal flooding.