SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Rain, snow and wind swept into California on Wednesday, flooding roadways, toppling trees and disrupting travel while bringing renewed threats of mud and debris flows from the state's huge wildfire burn scars.
The latest tempest in what has already been an extremely wet winter was feeding on an atmospheric river, a deep plume of moisture stretching across the Pacific Ocean to near Hawaii, the National Weather Service said.
The drenching started in the northern half of the state and was expected to expand southward through the day and last into Thursday.
The Federal Aviation Administration warned that flights arriving at San Francisco International Airport could be delayed more than two hours.
Winter storm warnings were posted in the snow-laden Sierra Nevada, where the storm was forecast to dump up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) of new snow at elevations above 9,000 feet (2,743 meters). Much of the rest of the state was under high wind warnings or advisories.
Snow was heavily impacting northern stretches of Interstate 5, the state's backbone highway. Caltrans reported the interstate closed to northbound traffic at Redding and to southbound trucks at Yreka. Tire chains were required elsewhere.
Widespread roadway flooding was occurring in the north San Francisco Bay Area, and to the east, a huge swath of the Central Valley was under a flood warning after moderate to heavy rain. Meteorologists warned that rain would melt snow in the Sierra foothills, adding to runoff.
In the Fresno County city of Sanger, police posted social media photos of wind damage to the roof of a school along with snapped trees.
The storm was expected to arrive much later in the day in Southern California, but voluntary evacuation warnings were already in effect for some neighborhoods near a burn scar on the Riverside County side of the Santa Ana Mountains.
In Santa Barbara County , hard-hit by a devastating debris flow in January 2018, officials said predicted rainfall rates were below thresholds for new flows, but residents were still advised to stay alert.