Flooding prompts closure of major Bay Area highway and evacuation warnings in northern California neighborhoods


Heavy precipitation and melting snow flooded roads and led to highway closures and evacuation warnings in Northern California on Saturday, officials said.

At one point, U.S. Highway 101 — one of California’s most famous thoroughfares — was closed in both directions south of San Francisco because “waters are not receding due to nonstop rains and high tides preventing the water from dislodging,” the California Highway Patrol said in Evening update. The highway reopened later Saturday evening after floodwaters receded, the CHP said.

Authorities also worked to rescue submerged vehicles from the highway after some chose to drive through the closures, the agency said.

The California Department of Transportation also announced a partial closure of Interstate 80 near the Nevada line at noon Saturday “due to multiple ships over Donner Peak.” Mountain pass driving in the Sierra Nevada range required tire chains for much of this month due to heavy snow.

In Sacramento County and nearby areas, residents were advised to avoid travel as wind gusts of up to 55 mph knocked down trees and covered roads with debris, according to a tweet from the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

A powerful storm that brought widespread heavy rain Friday through Saturday and created a flood threat across much of northern and central California is approaching unprecedented levels.

On Saturday evening, San Francisco came close to breaking the city’s record for wettest day ever.

“Downtown San Francisco is now at 5.45 inches, just 9 hundredths of an inch away from the daily (midnight to midnight) high of 5.54 inches,” National Weather Service said In the 17:00 update on Twitter.

Meanwhile, an active jet stream pattern has also brought a parade of storms fueled by an atmospheric river of Pacific moisture.

An atmospheric river is a long, narrow region in the atmosphere that can transport moisture thousands of miles, like a fire hose in the sky. This heavy rain will move south into Southern California on Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by gusty winds of 30 to 50 mph.

Several small communities in Northern California were under evacuation orders and warnings Saturday due to flooding. Three communities near the city of Watsonville were told to evacuate by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office due to creek flooding, while officials ordered the communities of Paradise Park and Pelton to evacuate due to rising San Lorenzo River levels.

Neighborhoods near Santa Rita Creek in Monterey County were placed under a warning Saturday afternoon because of fears the creek would “overflow,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Evacuation from the flood waters were conducted Saturday with the assistance of an armored rescue vehicle in South San Ramon.

Residents in the community of Wilton, about 20 miles from Sacramento, were ordered to shelter in place due to the rains and flooding.

“Rising water has made roads impassable in the area,” Sacramento County officials said on Facebook, urging those who were already on their way to safety and those who were at home to “stay home.”

The county issued a local emergency declaration for the winter storms on Saturday, saying the atmospheric river it experienced caused “significant transportation impacts, creek and river level rise and flooding” in the Wilton area.

A flood watch of more than 16 million is in effect, including the entire Bay Area and Central Valley though Saturday night. The rain may ease Saturday night before the calendar turns to 2023.

Early weather forecasts said widespread rain accumulations of 2 to 4 inches were expected in northern and central California, but locally higher amounts of 5 to 7 inches were also possible in the foothills.

Northern California and the central California coast have already received 2 to 4 inches of rain in the past week. The cumulative effect of multiple storm systems in the Pacific loaded with moisture from a strong atmospheric river will make effects like floods and landslides more likely.

Videos and photos Shared with the National Weather Service in San Francisco showing fallen trees blocking roads and multiple landslides.

In Oakland, local officials urged people to stay off the roads because of the heavy rain and flooding.

“If you must travel, be careful. City crews are working on a backlog of reports of flooding and other weather impacts,” the city published on Twitter.


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