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Bay Area storms: Rain storm bound for California could be ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

Yet more wind and rain are expected to lash much of California and the Bay Area on Sunday, adding to nearly three weeks of devastating atmospheric river storms that have caused flooding and mudslides across the state while pounding the Sierra Nevada with heaps of snow.

The brunt of the moisture is expected to hit the Bay Area early Sunday afternoon and continue through roughly midday Monday, said Colby Goatley, a National Weather Service meteorologist. It will likely mark the final major blast of precipitation to hit the region for the foreseeable future — potentially offering the state a chance to recover from a near-unceasing line of storms that have killed at least 19 people across California since late December.

Another .5 to 1 inch of rain is expected to fall across San Francisco and Oakland, while 1 to 1.5 Inches of rain could fall over San Jose, Livermore and Half Moon Bay. About 1-2 inches of rain are in the forecast for the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Central Coast.

While the rainfall totals aren’t as high as previous storms, Goatley stressed that the region remains at risk of flooding due to extremely waterlogged soils. Simply put: The region can’t handle any more water.

“The ground is still saturated,” Goatley said. “There’s still going to be plenty of chance for runoff and localized flooding. We just want everyone to keep paying attention. But hopefully, this is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

A flood watch remains in effect for almost the entire Bay Area through Monday evening. In addition, a coastal flood advisory also is in effect for areas along the Pacific Coast due to a combination of high tidal cycles, strong winds and heavy runoff.

Winds on Sunday and Monday are expected to be less ferocious than previous atmospheric river storms, with gusts over the urban centers expected to hit 10 to 20 mph, while the higher elevations and coastal regions could see gusts of 20 to 30 mph.

“This is thankfully not quite as mean of a system as the last several events,” Goatley said.

The incoming weather system comes as California reels from a string of storms fed by atmospheric rivers streaming across the Pacific over the last few weeks — placing tens of thousands of people under evacuation warnings or orders, while wreaking havoc on communities across the state.

On Saturday, the White House approved a major disaster declaration for Santa Cruz, Sacramento and Merced counties — three of the worst-hit regions in the state in recent weeks. Tidal swells tore through the Central Coast city of Capitola earlier this month, while flooding rivers and mudslides caused widespread damage elsewhere in the communities of Santa Cruz, Felton and Soquel. Across the Central Valley, raging rivers overwhelmed levies and inundated several towns.

“California is grateful for President Biden’s swift approval of this critical support to communities reeling from these ongoing storms,” said Governor Newsom in a statement on Saturday. “We’ll continue to work in lockstep with local, state and federal partners to help keep Californians safe and make sure our communities have the resources and assistance they need to rebuild and recover.”

The storms have also broken a slew of storm-related records for the region. On Sunday, Oakland had already surpassed the total amount of water it usually gets in a whole year, an astounding 19.25 inches compared to its usual 18.68 inches, according to data provided by NWS. Other nearby cities are closing in on their year averages, with downtown San Francisco less than 3 inches away. San Jose needs roughly 6 more inches to break its yearly normal.

Across the Bay Area on Sunday morning, a few stray showers offered a prelude to the next round of storms that were forecast to hit later in the day.

As of 7:30 a.m. Sunday, about two-thirds of an inch of rain fell over most lower-lying portions of the Bay Area during the previous 24 hours, according to rain gauges maintained by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. San Jose received up to .43 inches of rain in that span, while up to 1.75 inches fell in the Oakland hills. The Santa Cruz Mountains received anywhere from .91 to 2.56 inches of rain.

To the east, the Sierra is expected to once again get hammered with snow, with 12 to 18 inches of fresh powder expected to fall over Donner and Echo passes through Monday evening. Up to two feet of snow could fall over Ebbetts, Sonora and Tioga passes.

It adds to impressive snowfall totals across the Sierra Nevada in recent weeks, which have pushed the area’s snowpack to twice its normal average for this time of year.

About 7.5 feet of snow fell at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab near Donner Summit over the last week alone, the weather outpost reported Sunday morning. That included nearly two feet of snow over the last 24 hours and 42.7 inches of snow since Friday morning.

Already, the weather station has received 92% of the snow that it normally receives by April 1.

Across the Bay Area, the multiple weeks of wet weather have sparked a multitude of road closures.

  • Santa Clara County: Both lanes of Highway 130 at Quimby Road
  • San Mateo County: Edgewood Road from Crestview Drive to I-280 and 4100 Stage Road to Pomponio Creek
  • Alameda County: Highway 84 from Fremont to Sunol
  • Santa Cruz County: Highway 236 from Little Basin Road to Big Basin Road and Highway 9 from lower Glen Arbor Road to upper Glen Arbor Road

But relief could be on the way.

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Sunny skies should return on Tuesday before a final dash of precipitation hits the Bay Area on Wednesday afternoon. That system should be nothing like the previous line of storms that have inundated the region over the last few weeks, though. Rainfall totals on Wednesday are expected to barely reach .1 inches for most of the region during that weather system, Goatley said.

After that, sunny skies should return to the Bay Area through at least the first part of the weekend, with high temperatures likely to linger in the mid-to-upper 50s through at least Saturday for much of the region, including in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Pittsburg.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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Bay Area storms: Rain storm bound for California could be ‘light at the end of the tunnel’


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