Schools, roads closed by Northern California storms

AP News
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Posted: Mar 11, 2016 5:29 PM
Schools, roads closed by Northern California storms

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Schools shuttered, motorists rerouted and residents snapped up sandbags Friday in response to heavy rains drenching Northern California as part of a much-needed storm system that's moving south.

Roads were closed due to floods and mudslides, including a portion of California Highway 1 in Mendocino County where overnight slides nearly toppled a California Department of Transportation dump truck with an employee inside. The truck hit a guardrail — stopping its fall — and landed at a 45-degree angle. The employee was uninjured.

The latest in a series of storms moved in Thursday night, adding more moisture to an already wet March that has resulted in mudslides and swollen creeks. A mudslide was likely to blame for a commuter train that derailed east of San Francisco on Monday, injuring nine.

Bobby Rehfeldt of Goodman Building Supply off U.S. 101 in Mill Valley, said Friday that most of the customers in the busy store were thrilled with the rain, although some are understandably unhappy about leaks.

"Lots of people are buying tarps and roof patch and heat guns to dry stuff up, anything for getting water off the ground, and sandbags are flying out of here," he said.

"It's just rain, and we need it."

California is entering its fifth year of drought, and water watchers say anything helps, although it will take years of normal or above-normal rainfall to right the deficit.

Rain moved down the Central Coast and into Southern California during the morning, but only a few sprinkles fell during the funeral for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles. A waterproof tent behind the library shielded those attending the service.

Minutes after the service ended, the skies unleashed a blustery downpour and mourners pulled out umbrellas as they filed past her coffin.

The National Weather Service said the cold front would move through the region very quickly and peak rain rates would likely only last an hour or two, with a couple of hours of lighter precipitation in its aftermath.

Snow levels were expected to initially be between 6,000 and 6,500 feet, then lower, possibly to 4,500 feet by night.

In Northern California, snow is forecast in the Sierra Nevada throughout the weekend. The Sierra snowpack normally stores about 30 percent of California's water supply.

Several Sonoma County schools closed Friday due to fears that the Russian River would flood, but by afternoon, forecasters had cancelled warnings for major rivers.

Still, the Russian River was running high and fast Friday with vineyards submerged and streets closed. At a trailer park in Forestville mere feet from the river, a resident was moving his dog and trailer to drier land.

National Weather Service forecaster Bob Benjamin said the San Francisco Bay Area will stay mostly dry Saturday with another system possibly moving in by evening. A flash flood watch remains in the north bay.

Another storm is expected Sunday.

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AP Photographer Eric Risberg contributed to this report. Antczak reported from Los Angeles.