SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – A steady rain fell steadily across the Bay Area for much of the morning and into the afternoon Wednesday, soaking freeways as Thanksgiving holiday travelers head to their destinations but finally clearing away the smoky air from the Camp Fire.
The first major storm system to hit Northern California in months was too much for many roadways.
Southbound 101 at Paul Avenue in San Francisco flooded, leaving Caltrans workers scrambling through knee-deep water to clear clogged drains and re-open three lanes.
The rain created a messy situation with flooding at Bryant and Beale Streets in San Francisco as well as the car pool lane approaching the Bay Bridge.
Flooding was also reported in Berkeley on Ashby Avenue near Interstate 80 as well as on Highway 101 in San Francisco where the northbound connector to the Central Freeway was closed due to hazardous conditions as of roughly 2:30 p.m.
In the East Bay, the wet weather was blamed for a power outage centered in Concord affecting nearly 20,000 homes. The outage lasted for about two hours, with PG&E crews able to restore electricity to customers by around 11 a.m.
PG&E crews were working as quickly as possible to safely restore power to other areas impacted by weather-related outages. Overall, a total of 5,370 customers lost power with 1,170 households affected on the Peninsula and 3,530 impacted in the East Bay.
Bay Area residents happily traded smoky skies for wet weather.
Umbrellas replaced mask faces on Bay Area streets early Wednesday as a storm front began to clear out a layer of smoky, unhealthy air that had hung over the region for nearly two weeks.
Light showers fell, removing Camp Fire particulates from the air which has ranged from unhealthy to hazardous since the hours after wildfire’s outbreak in faraway Butte County on Nov. 8.
The culprit was a high pressure system stalled off the coast which tossed up an atmospheric wall that halted the smoke plume’s western movement over the Bay Area.
A low front has pushed the system aside and replaced the northeastern winds driving smoke from the fire into the Bay Area with gusts from the south.
By 5 a.m., according to the EPA’s Airnow.gov website, the Air Quality Index over Oakland was a moderate 98 and improving. San Francisco was over 100 and unhealthy for people with conditions that made them sensitive to bad air but it also was improving by the hour.
However, by late morning, AQI readings had dropped into the “Good” range for much of the Bay Area, with only further reaches of the East Bay lingering in the yellow “Moderate” range with a couple of patches of “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” air quality.
For most, the rain was a welcome relief.
“I would definitely trade rain for smoke, said South Bay student Sam Springfield. “Because we never get rain. And the smoke doesn’t allow you to do sports or anything. So all my practices have been cancelled. I can’t be active and go outside because it going to hurt my lungs.”