Third major storm moving into Northern California

December 2, 2012 - 3:33 AM
California Storm

Daniel Cissney, 52, watches as an overflowing Stillwater Creek nearly floods his home on in Mountain Gate, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Heavy rains Thursday night drenched the area, leading to some localized flooding. (AP Photo/The Record Searchlight, Jim Schultz)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Another major storm moving into Northern California was expected to bring more pouring rain, flooding and additional problems to an area already soaked after two major storms, forecasters said Saturday.

Residents of Northern California enjoyed just a bit of a respite, but the next storm — the third in a string of powerful weather systems to hit the region since Wednesday — is expected arrive Saturday night and force several rivers over their banks, National Weather Service forecasters said.

With rivers and streams already running high and the ground saturated from the previous storms, the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for both the Napa and Russian rivers, two rivers north of San Francisco with a history of flooding, National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Strudley said.

"Some roads will become inundated and some of the agricultural areas will take on some water," Strudley said.

The Napa River was expected to flood near St. Helena and Napa around noon on Sunday, while the Russian River was expected to flood near Guerneville early Monday morning, Strudley said.

The Napa River overwhelmed downtown Napa in 2005, flooding or destroying about 1,000 homes and forcing thousands of residents to leave the area.

With that in mind, residents worked to fill 700 bags with 10 tons of sand Saturday morning, city official Danny Lerma said.

"When you see it happen, you always remember, and you say, 'I'm going to be better prepared,'" Lerma told KGO-TV. "And that's what they're doing right now."

Forecasters said the Truckee River near Lake Tahoe is expected to crest above flood level by Sunday morning. The threat of flooding prompted officials in Truckee, a small town of about 16,000, to set up an evacuation center Saturday night.

A flash flood watch was also in effect for a wide area of Northern California through Sunday evening.

Just across the border in Nevada, a state of emergency was declared in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County due to the expected flooding.

Reno city spokeswoman Michele Anderson said public servants would be working overtime through the weekend to control what's expected to be the worst flooding there since 2005.

The weather also prompted cancellations of Christmas parades and tree lightings in Sparks and Truckee.

At the peak of Friday's storm, thousands of people in Northern California were without power, but by Saturday Pacific Gas & Electric was reporting only scattered outages, spokesman J.D. Guidi said.

The utility had extra crews standing by in anticipation of new outages caused by falling branches and strong winds, Guidi said.

The stormy weather may be behind a crash that involved several cars on Interstate 280 outside of San Francisco on Saturday morning, as well as the death of a Pacific Gas & Electric worker in West Sacramento who was killed after his truck crashed into a traffic signal pole during the stormy weather Friday.

With the ground saturated with water, increasing the possibility of trees and branches falling onto roadways, and the roads expected to be slick, California Highway Patrol officials urged drivers to be extra cautious.

Officials were also warning people to be careful along beaches.

A high surf advisory was issued by the weather service, with swells expected to be 14 to 16 feet along the Northern California coast. In Southern California, high surf was predicted in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

In San Diego, the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier was closed because of big waves and high tides.