Record-breaking storm douses drought-stricken California

  • A car crosses a flooded parking lot in Oroville, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after causing flooding across the northern half of the state.

    A car crosses a flooded parking lot in Oroville, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after causing flooding across the northern half of the state. Associated Press

  • Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires.

    Rocks and vegetation cover Highway 70 following a landslide in the Dixie Fire zone on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Plumas County, Calif. Heavy rains blanketing Northern California created slide and flood hazards in land scorched during last summer's wildfires. Associated Press

  • An abandoned car is stuck in the mud on Chualar River Road as rain falls over Salinas Valley, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

    An abandoned car is stuck in the mud on Chualar River Road as rain falls over Salinas Valley, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Associated Press

  • In this image taken from video from a Caltrans remote video traffic camera, very light traffic is seen in the snow along Interstate 80 at Donner Summit, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Rainfall records were shattered and heavy snow pounded high elevations of the Sierra Nevada. Officials said mountain areas above 9,000 feet (2,745 meters) in the Sierra Nevada could get 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow or more from Sunday until Monday morning. (Caltrans via AP)

    In this image taken from video from a Caltrans remote video traffic camera, very light traffic is seen in the snow along Interstate 80 at Donner Summit, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Rainfall records were shattered and heavy snow pounded high elevations of the Sierra Nevada. Officials said mountain areas above 9,000 feet (2,745 meters) in the Sierra Nevada could get 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow or more from Sunday until Monday morning. (Caltrans via AP) Associated Press

  • Anthony Flores, with the City of Clovis, works to clear a storm drain on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP)

    Anthony Flores, with the City of Clovis, works to clear a storm drain on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP) Associated Press

  • Commuters cautiously drive around a flooded section of Peach Avenue on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP)

    Commuters cautiously drive around a flooded section of Peach Avenue on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP) Associated Press

  • Garfield Elementary crossing guard Kai Dill tries to leap across the flooding street on Peach Ave., in Clovis, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP)

    Garfield Elementary crossing guard Kai Dill tries to leap across the flooding street on Peach Ave., in Clovis, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP) Associated Press

  • As the rain falls, a father walks his son to Garfield Elementary through a flooded section of Peach and Need Avenues, on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/The Fresno Bee via AP)

    As the rain falls, a father walks his son to Garfield Elementary through a flooded section of Peach and Need Avenues, on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/The Fresno Bee via AP) Associated Press

  • A downed tree is seen on Minnewawa Ave., during a storm, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP)

    A downed tree is seen on Minnewawa Ave., during a storm, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Clovis, Calif. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after flooding highways, toppling trees, cutting power to about 380,000 utility customers and causing rock slides and mud flows in areas burned bare by wildfires across the northern half of the state. (John Walker/Fresno Bee via AP) Associated Press

  • A member of Hollister's Department of Public Works clears floodwaters on Hillcrest Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

    A member of Hollister's Department of Public Works clears floodwaters on Hillcrest Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Associated Press

  • A pickup truck crosses a flooded parking lot in Oroville, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after causing flooding across the northern half of the state.

    A pickup truck crosses a flooded parking lot in Oroville, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. A massive storm barreled toward Southern California on Monday after causing flooding across the northern half of the state. Associated Press

  • Fog and rain make driving the Interstate 5 freeway in the San Fernando Valley treacherous, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Heavy rain moving down from Northern California is expected to hit the Los Angeles area today. (David Crane/The Orange County Register via AP)

    Fog and rain make driving the Interstate 5 freeway in the San Fernando Valley treacherous, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Heavy rain moving down from Northern California is expected to hit the Los Angeles area today. (David Crane/The Orange County Register via AP) Associated Press

  • Members of Hollister's Department of Public Works clear flood waters on Hillcrest Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

    Members of Hollister's Department of Public Works clear flood waters on Hillcrest Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Associated Press

  • Members of Hollister's Department of Public Works clear flood waters on Fairview Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

    Members of Hollister's Department of Public Works clear flood waters on Fairview Road in Hollister, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Associated Press

  • Water from heavy rains floods a farm near in Prunedale, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

    Water from heavy rains floods a farm near in Prunedale, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Associated Press

  • Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

    Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Associated Press

  • Clouds gather over Lake Oroville on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

    Clouds gather over Lake Oroville on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Associated Press

  • Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

    Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Associated Press

  • Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

    Houseboats float on Lake Oroville, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. Recent storms raised the reservoir more than 16 feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Associated Press

  • Alfred Giese, who drove in from sunny Indio, Calif. to attend the unveiling of the Anita Baldwin statue outside Le Méridien Hotel in Arcadia, stays dry under plastic during a rainstorm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. His wife Barbara is a distant relative of Anita Baldwin's half sister Clara. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

    Alfred Giese, who drove in from sunny Indio, Calif. to attend the unveiling of the Anita Baldwin statue outside Le Méridien Hotel in Arcadia, stays dry under plastic during a rainstorm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. His wife Barbara is a distant relative of Anita Baldwin's half sister Clara. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP) Associated Press

  • A vehicle negotiates standing water along Riverside drive in Toluca Lake, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Heavy rain moving down from Northern California is expected to hit the Los Angeles area today. (David Crane/The Orange County Register via AP)

    A vehicle negotiates standing water along Riverside drive in Toluca Lake, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Heavy rain moving down from Northern California is expected to hit the Los Angeles area today. (David Crane/The Orange County Register via AP) Associated Press

  • Bruno and Julie stroll on a rainy day in Long Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP)

    Bruno and Julie stroll on a rainy day in Long Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP) Associated Press

  • A man attempts to stay dry while riding along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., during a rainstorm, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP)

    A man attempts to stay dry while riding along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., during a rainstorm, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register via AP) Associated Press

  • A wind surfer surfs in the rain in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP)

    A wind surfer surfs in the rain in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP) Associated Press

  • Rain continues to fall in Long Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP)

    Rain continues to fall in Long Beach, Calif., Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Brittany Murray/The Orange County Register via AP) Associated Press

  • In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain,  Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP)

    In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP) Associated Press

  • In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.  (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP)

    In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP) Associated Press

  • In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain,  Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP)

    In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP) Associated Press

  • In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.  (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP)

    In this photo provided by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, snow falls on Mammoth Mountain, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Christian Pondella/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area via AP) Associated Press

  • A flooded sign remains after water had receded on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP)

    A flooded sign remains after water had receded on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Matthew Landry wrings out a mop as he dries out his garage on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Landry says shoes were floating in his garage when his street flooded during Saturday's storm. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP)

    Matthew Landry wrings out a mop as he dries out his garage on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Landry says shoes were floating in his garage when his street flooded during Saturday's storm. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP) Associated Press

  • Robert Schmidt cleans up after Saturday's storm in front of his home on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. During the storm, the street was under water, with several inches of water entering Schmidt's garage. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP)

    Robert Schmidt cleans up after Saturday's storm in front of his home on C Street in San Rafael, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. During the storm, the street was under water, with several inches of water entering Schmidt's garage. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/25/2021 8:59 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Across Northern California, crews worked Monday to clear streets of toppled trees and branches and to clean gutters clogged by debris carried by rainwater from a massive storm that caused flooding and rock slides, and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands.

Despite the problems, the rain and mountain snow were welcome in Northern California, which is so dry that nearly all of it is classified as either experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. The wet weather also greatly reduces the chances of additional wildfires in a region that has borne the brunt of another devastating year of blazes in the state.

 

When the storm arrived during the weekend, people joyfully dusted off rain boots and jackets and children stomped in puddles. Social media filled with pictures that showed windshields splattered with droplets of water and single-word posts: RAIN!!!

Earl Casaclang of San Francisco kept waiting for a break in the rain Sunday to go out and smoke a cigarette.

'It was crazy! I kept thinking it was going to stop, but it just kept going and going,' Casaclang said Monday as he headed to his job as a security guard in the Financial District. 'We need it to keep raining, but hopefully not that hard.'

The National Weather Service called preliminary rainfall totals 'staggering,' including 11 inches (28 centimeters) at the base of Marin County's Mount Tamalpais and 4 inches (10 centimeters) in downtown San Francisco, the fourth-wettest day ever for the city.

'It's been a memorable past 24 hours for the Bay Area as the long talked-about atmospheric river rolled through the region,' the local weather office said. 'We literally have gone from fire/drought conditions to flooding in one storm cycle.'

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Northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, 5.44 inches (13.82 centimeters) fell on downtown Sacramento, shattering the one-day record for rainfall that had stood since 1880.

The storm was accompanied by strong winds that knocked down trees and even toppled two big rigs on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Pacific Gas & Electric reported Sunday evening that 380,000 homes and businesses lost power, though most had it back Monday.

Water rose so quickly that two people and a dog needed rescuing from rising creeks in separate incidents early Monday in San Jose. San Jose Fire crews located one person clinging to a tree in the Guadalupe River at 3:30 a.m., but were unable to locate a second person. An hour later, crews rescued an individual and their dog stranded on an island in the middle of Coyote Creek.

As the storm headed south, precipitation levels fell, though a flood warning still was issued Monday afternoon for Los Angeles County.

Interstate 80, the major highway through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Reno, Nevada, was shut down by heavy snow early Monday. In California's Colusa and Yolo counties, state highways 16 and 20 were shut for several miles because of mudslides, the state Department of Transportation said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The same storm system also slammed Oregon and Washington state, causing power outages that affected tens of thousands of people. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in the greater Seattle area.

Lake Oroville, a major Northern California reservoir, saw its water levels rise 20 feet (6.10 meters) over the past week, according to the state's Department of Water Resource. Most of the increase came between Saturday and Monday, during the height of the storm, KHSL-TV reported.

Justin Mankin, a geography professor at Dartmouth College and co-lead of the Drought Task Force at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the cycle of going from years-long drought to record-breaking downpours is something expected to continue due to climate change.

'While this rain is welcome, it comes with these hazards and it won't necessarily end the drought,' Mankin said. 'California still needs more precipitation, and it really needs it in high elevations and spread out over a longer time so it's not hazardous.'

Christy Brigham, chief of resource management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the rain was a huge relief after the Caldor Fire torched an unknown number of the giant trees in the park, along with thousands of pines and cedars.

'This amount of rainfall is what we call a season-ending event,' Brigham said. 'It should end fire season and it should end our need -- to a large degree -- to fight this fire.'

The Caldor Fire has burned for more than two months and in early September it prompted the unprecedented evacuation of the entire city of South Lake Tahoe. Firefighters now consider it fully contained, a status that - thanks to the rain - also now applies to the Dixie Fire, the second-largest in state history at just under 1 million acres.

During the weekend, the California Highway Patrol closed a stretch of State Route 70 in Butte and Plumas counties because of multiple landslides within the massive Dixie Fire burn scar.

Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency, wasn't ready to declare the wildfire season over or to cut staffing to winter levels. 'We'd like to see some more rain coming our way before we look at reducing staffing,' spokesman Isaac Sanchez said.

Mankin said the long-term forecast for California shows drier-than-normal conditions.

'To end different aspects of the drought, you are going to need a situation where parts of California get precipitation over the next three months that's about 200% of normal,' he said, adding that 'despite this really, really insane rainfall, the winter is probably going to be drier than average."

___

Associated Press writers Janie Har in San Francisco, Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles and Brian Melley in Three Rivers contributed to this report.

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