Wet weather returned to California with the first in a new series of rainstorms moving across the northern half of the state while the south awaited a storm that forecasters said could be the strongest in years if not decades. Rain, accompanied by heavy winds, pelted the San Francisco Bay Area, where Marin and Napa counties logged up to an inch of precipitation. San Francisco recorded 1.67 inches for the day, according to the National Weather Service. Precipitation also moved down the Central Coast counties, but forecasters said it was only a light precursor to a dangerous atmospheric river taking aim at Southern California.
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The plume of moisture stretching far out over the Pacific was expected to arrive early on Friday and last through the day and into Saturday. Flood warnings for the period were in effect for rivers and creeks up and down the state. High wind warnings were issued for mountains and valleys, which could see gusts to 70 mph.
“The storm looks to be the strongest storm to hit southwest California this season,” the National Weather Service office for the Los Angeles region wrote. “It is likely the strongest within the last six years and possibly even as far back as December 2004 or January 1995.”
Rainfall predictions ranged from 2 inches to 6 inches on the coast and from 5 inches to 10 inches in foothills and coastal mountain slopes. With soil already saturated from significant rains this winter, forecasters warned of potential for flash floods and debris flows, especially near areas left barren by wildfires.
The city of Duarte, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles, ordered evacuation of 180 homes below a burn scar by 7 am on Friday. Powerful winds capable of downing trees and powerlines were also expected, along with heavy snow in Southern California’s mountains.