Powerful Pacific tempest clobbers storm-battered California
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) -- A strong late-season Pacific storm brought damaging winds and more rain and snow to saturated California on Wednesday after causing two deaths a day earlier as it raked the San Francisco Bay Area with powerful gusts and downpours.
A possible tornado left a line of damage across roofs of commercial buildings in the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello a day after two other possible tornadoes occurred in Southern California.
The National Weather Service tweeted that it was sending teams to assess damage in Montebello and the southern Santa Barbara County city of Carpinteria, where a possible twister hit on Tuesday.
Montebello city spokesman Alex Gillman said information was still being gathered.
A tornado warning based on radar also was issued Tuesday night for the Point Mugu area west of Malibu. The warning was later canceled and the Ventura County Sheriff's Office tweeted there was no evidence a tornado touched down.
The violent weather hit even as the storm was gradually tapering off in California from north to south while pushing inland across the Southwest, the Four Corners region and the central and southern Rockies, the National Weather Service said. On Tuesday, some residents of north-central Arizona were told to prepare to evacuate because of rising water levels in rivers and basins.
The wind and rain mayhem from San Francisco Bay south to Monterey Bay on Tuesday was caused by an extraordinary drop in barometric pressure over the eastern Pacific that meteorologists described as "explosive cyclogenisis."
"Wow. Even by the standards of what has turned out to be one of our most extraordinary winter seasons in a very long time, yesterday ... stands out," the Bay Area weather office wrote.
Trees and power lines were blown down. Windows were blown out from two San Francisco high-rises, NBC Bay Area reported. Ferry service was disrupted because conditions were too rough. Three barges got loose and damaged a bridge.
An Amtrak commuter train carrying 55 passengers struck a downed tree and derailed near the East Bay village of Porta Costa. The train remained upright and nobody was injured, Amtrak and fire officials said.
In the Bay Area community of Portola Valley, a man driving a sewer truck was killed when a tree fell onto the vehicle, the California Highway Patrol said. And in the community of Rossmoor, a driver was injured and a passenger died after a large tree fell onto a car, the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said.
In the Monterey Bay region, Santa Cruz County was blasted with gusts up to 80 mph (129 kph) at midday. Along the coastline of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, ocean foam blew across the roadways like large snowflakes.
Wind gusts reached 76 mph (122 kph) in Santa Cruz mountain communities, including Boulder Creek.
Resident Frank Kuhr waited for hours Tuesday afternoon at a downtown supermarket for crews to remove large redwoods that blocked a highway. "Trees are down everywhere," Kuhr said. "The wind has been unbelievable. Branches were flying through the air, and folks could hear trees just falling and cracking."
"This one's a doozy," Kuhr said.
The 1.4 inch (3.5 centimeters) of rain that fell on downtown Los Angeles broke the March 21 record of 1.34 inches (3.40 centimeters) set in 1893.
Some 121,000 customers were without electricity early Wednesday throughout the state, according to PowerOutage.us.
The National Weather Service said Tuesday's storm, which came on the first full day of spring following the state's extraordinary winter, was a Pacific low pressure system interacting with California's 12th atmospheric river since late December.
California's unexpected siege of wet weather after years of drought also included February blizzards powered by arctic air.
The storms have unleashed flooding and loaded mountains with so much snow that roofs have been crushed and crews have struggled to keep highways clear of avalanches.
The Mammoth Mountain resort in the eastern Sierra Nevada announced that it will remain open for skiing and snowboarding at least through the end of July.
With a season-to-date snowfall of 634 inches (16.1 meters) at the main lodge, it was likely just one storm away from breaking the record of 668 inches (16.9 meters) set in the 2010-2011 season.