SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — The San Francisco Bay Area is under a flash-flood watch as a powerful storm begins dumping rain on the state.
The National Weather Service issued a watch Friday evening through Saturday morning for the entire Bay Area and most of the Central Coast. Forecasters say the area could see an inch of rain an hour. Some hills could get up to 4 inches from the storm.
Flood watches also have been issued for Southern California areas scarred by recent massive wildfires. Mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders also have been issued for residents near the Thomas, Whittier and Sherpa fire areas.
Forecasters also predict gusting winds and high waves from the storm. The Sierra Nevada could see 6 to 10 feet of snow at some elevations.
The initial high-wind watch was upgraded to a high-wind warning Friday morning and went into effect at 3 p.m., lasting until 10 a.m. Saturday for the entire Bay Area with strong wind gusts likely. The region will see southeasterly winds at 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 65 mph. Downed trees and power lines are possible.
Estimated storm totals Friday through Monday will be anywhere from 2-5 inches of rain for the North Bay, 1-2.5 inches for the East Bay, 1-3 inches for the Peninsula, 1-2 inches for the South Bay and 3-5 inches for the Santa Cruz mountains.
Three weeks ago, the biggest storm of the season so far wiped out a chunk of the hillside above Highway 35.
While the highway is back open, there is exposed, unprotected dirt that the anticipated heavy downpour could impact, creating more problems.
“This is a good night to stay home,” said Mitch Matlow with the San Jose fire department.
Matlow said the department is not staffing any extra firefighters for this storm but he still offered a few reminders for residents who want to prepare.
There are a number of locations in the South Bay to fill sandbags for free, and the Santa Clara Water District has some great tips online about how to properly arrange them to protect your home.
Residents who see any kind of fallen power lines are asked to immediately call 911.
Drivers who spot any standing water on roadways are advised to follow the often-repeated saying, “Turn around don’t drown.”
“If there’s standing water, even one inch above water, you can easily hydroplane if you drive your car through it. Four or five inches of water and you can stall your car. Six inches of water, even if it’s moving 10 miles an hour, can carry your car with it,” said Matlow. “We don’t want somebody to get hurt because there’s a puddle in front of them, regardless how big it is. If you can avoid the puddle, don’t go through it.”
A winter storm warning is also in effect for the west slopes of the Sierra including Lake Tahoe from Friday at 4 p.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday. Expect gusty winds, heavy snow and travel delays in the Sierra. The snow level will be down to 4,000-5,000 feet and down to 2,000 feet Monday. Snow at the passes will reach between 36 and 60 inches.
Caltrans, the California Office of Traffic Safety and CHP are recommending that drivers not travel through the Sierra this weekend due to the heavy snowfall expected.
Caltrans is preemptively closing State Route 140 in Mariposa County in the area of the Ferguson Fire burn scar early Saturday morning. 17 miles will be closed from Bear Creek to Foresta Road near the west entrance of Yosemite National Park.
Risks for this stretch of roadway in storm conditions include mudslides and the movement of debris, such as rocks, onto highway lanes.
The storm-related closure is scheduled to begin at 4 a.m. Saturday.
Caltrans crews will close the road when the storm begins. After the storm has passed, Caltrans crews will clear any debris and inspect the road before reopening it to traffic.
Landslides are also possible in the North Bay’s wildfire burn scars, though National Weather Service meteorologist Drew Peterson said slow and steady rains may not have as big an impact there. Meteorologists will be watching the area closely.
Caltrans officials are worried about landslides along state Highway 1 and will close a 44-mile stretch of the road in Big Sur. The road will be closed between Deetjens and Ragged Point starting at 5 p.m. Friday. Officials anticipate reopening the road on Monday, though that depends on whether the road is damaged by the storm.
A colder storm system rolls into the Bay Area Sunday, lasting into Monday. That system will drop the snow level down to 2,000 feet, so Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Hamilton and Mt. Diablo could see a dusting of snow Monday morning.
There is a chance of showers next Tuesday before drier weather returns next Wednesday.
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