CONCORD (CBS SF) — After months of drought conditions, Mother Nature has swung the storm door open, stacking up rain-laden cold fronts well out into the Pacific, bringing the promise of much-needed precipitation to the parched Northern California hills.
The first of the fronts swept into the area with light showers on Sunday night.
“These showers brought along with them anywhere from a few hundredths of an inch of rain to portions of our coasts and bays to almost a quarter of an inch of rain at some of the highest peaks along the coastal ranges of the North Bay,” the National Weather Service said.
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Among those dodging raindrops was John Mohamedi.
“It’s been dry, you know, the plants, the people,” he said. “We need something a little bit different. The world’s getting kinda crazy, we need a little switch.”
Concord resident Casey Caster was in agreement.
“All we have had is fire, after fire, after fire,” he said of the tinder-dry hills. “Plus all the reservoirs are drying up. We got nothing. There’s hope, praise God we got hope.”
But the showers also brought slick roadways and triggered power outages across the Bay Area where thousands woke up Monday morning in homes without electricity.
Moisture from the showers combined with layers of dust accumulated over several months of drought to short circuit dozens of power transformers and electrical lines.
“After a long time without rain, dust, dirt, salt, and other substances accumulate on power lines,” the utility said in a statement. “When the first mist or rain arrives after a long dry spell, it turns this mixture into mud, which conducts electricity. This can damage electrical equipment and potentially result in what’s called electrical flashovers, or tracking (electricity finding another track or an alternate path instead of the wire), and therefore could cause power outages.”
“Other causes of weather-related damage include arcing. When there is enough dust and particulate in the air near power lines, it can create an arc and an electrical flashover.”
As of 7 a.m., there were still some 11,000 homes without electricity. There were 6,214 customers without power in the East Bay and 5,123 on the Peninsula.
The storm front also brought a blanket of snow to the Sierra with as much as 8 inches falling at the higher elevations. Chain requirements were in place for the high passes on Highways 80 and 50.
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And more was on the way.
“The next in a series of potentially wetter storms impacts the region late Tuesday into Wednesday,” the National Weather Services Reno office said in a statement. “More active and wetter weather pattern will continue into the weekend.”