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Nasty storm battering Bay Area leads to 5 deaths, flooding, power outages

SF Gate logo SF Gate 1/17/2019 By Sarah Ravani and Ashley McBride

a close up of a tree: A massive tree collapsed on Muni power lines near Mission and Fourth streets in San Francisco on Thursday morning.

A massive tree collapsed on Muni power lines near Mission and Fourth streets in San Francisco on Thursday morning.
© Chris Preovolos / The Chronicle

The storm that has played a role in five people’s deaths and brought torrential rainfall and fierce winds to the region will continue to linger Thursday with widespread showers and coastal flooding in the Bay Area, officials said.

“The brunt of the storm has now passed. We are behind the cold front now. What we are going to see (Thursday) is the development of scattered and widespread rain showers with isolated thunderstorms,” said Drew Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Conditions were made more volatile due to an atmospheric river colliding with a cold front, officials said. By 6 a.m. Thursday, San Francisco had received 1.10 inches of rain in just 24 hours. Oakland received slightly less than an inch of rain and Santa Rosa had 2.18 inches. San Jose received 1.10 inches of rain.

Three Peaks in Big Sur received the most amount of precipitation with 5.75 inches recorded. Venado wasn’t far behind with 5.68 inches recorded.

A 3.5 earthquake was reported in Piedmont around 6 a.m. Thursday, causing 20-minute delays on BART.

Flooding closed one eastbound lane just before 9a.m. in San Francisco on the Embarcadero, between Howard and Mission streets.

Elsewhere in San Francisco, a massive tree collapsed on Muni power lines near Mission and Fourth streets. A street lamp post and tree also toppled to the ground near the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Union Street.

The storm has led to mudslides, toppled trees, high winds, hail and downed power lines throughout the Bay Area.

Anthony Rippee, a 42-year-old transient, was killed Wednesday at a homeless encampment near Ardley Avenue and Interstate 580 in Oakland after a tree fell to the ground, officials said.

“Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast,” said Officer Herman Baza, a California Highway Patrol spokesman. “Inclement weather is going to cause trees to fall and it’s sad. ... Wrong place, wrong time for this poor gentleman.”

Heavy rain was a factor in a Tuesday evening collision on Highway 50 in Camino (El Dorado County) that killed a family of three, including a 1-year-old child, after their vehicle spun out on the freeway and struck another car.

A man was killed just before 3 p.m Wednesday in a car crash involving two vehicles on Highway 121 at Napa Road in Napa County.

The victim was driving a 2014 Nissan southbound when he lost control of his vehicle and collided with a Dodge truck headed northbound on the highway. The driver of the Nissan was pronounced dead at the scene. He was was not identified.

The driver and two passengers in the Dodge truck were transported to the hospital with minor injuries.

“The preliminary investigation shows weather and speed related, going too fast with the water that was out there on the road,” said CHP Officer Marc Renspurger.

As rainfall continues throughout the region, forecasters warned that some parts of the Bay Area could experience flooding Thursday, particularly in the North Bay.

A flood warning was in effect for Sonoma County until 8:15 a.m., and a coastal flood advisory was in effect for the San Francisco shoreline until 9 a.m. due to a rising tidal level, onshore winds and a high surf.

“Those things all combined together are going to lead to coastal flooding,” Peterson said.

The peak of the tidal rises will be between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., he added.

A high surf warning is in effect until 5 p.m. Friday with 25 to 35 feet breaking waves expected. San Francisco should see especially tall waves around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Peterson said.

A winter storm and blizzard warning were in effect for the Sierra through early Friday with up to 24 inches of snow expected at Echo Pass, 36 inches anticipated at Donner Pass and up to 30 inches expected at Carson Pass.

The heaviest snowfall was expected to fall Thursday, officials said. Chain controls were in effect for drivers.

The storm is expected to clear out by Friday, officials said, with dry and warm temperatures expected through Saturday.

But there is another chance for rain Sunday.

Sarah Ravani is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: sravani@sfchronicle.com, ashley.mcbride@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SarRavani, @ashleynmcb

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