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Storm brings blustery, wet conditions to Bay Area, snow in Sierra

SF Gate logo SF Gate 1/7/2019 By Michael Cabanatuan and Gwendolyn Wu

a car driving on a city street filled with lots of traffic: Rainy day in San Francisco. Sunday, January 6, 2019.

Rainy day in San Francisco. Sunday, January 6, 2019.
© Jana Asenbrennerova / Special To The Chronicle

The Bay Area may get a respite from wet weather on Monday before a second storm barrels into the region Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cloudy skies are in Monday’s forecast, with a few lingering showers from Sunday’s storm possible in the region, according to the National Weather Service.

Flights were delayed and canceled out of San Francisco International Airport on Sunday because of rain and heavy winds, part of a cold front that dumped up to 2 feet of snow in the Sierra, preventing Lake Tahoe travelers from entering or leaving the region.

Rain started falling around sunrise in San Francisco on Sunday and continued through the day with the heaviest rainfall in the afternoon. As of Sunday afternoon, Santa Rosa received 1.51 inches of rain, San Francisco received 0.93 inches and San Jose saw 0.56 inches. San Anselmo saw the highest total rainfall for the day at 4.41 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The North Bay hills experienced rainfall up to an inch per hour around midday Sunday, forecasters said. Heavy rain forecasted for southeastern Marin County prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flood advisory for San Rafael, Mill Valley and several other cities through 4:45 p.m. Sunday.

“The back edge of the precipitation has already moved into the North Bay so precipitation is mostly ending and will gradually taper off throughout Bay Area about 9 p.m.,” said weather service meteorologist Duane Dykema.

Meteorologists also issued a wind advisory through 10 p.m. Sunday, warning of winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph, for all of the Bay Area except the Santa Clara Valley.

Unlike Saturday, when strong winds were accompanied by only a modicum of precipitation — 0.11 of an inch in San Francisco, 0.47 of an inch in Santa Rosa — Sunday’s storm brought more significant rainfall.

“It hardly put a dent in our rainfall deficit,” said weather service meteorologist Will Pi. But Sunday “looks like it will bring higher amounts.”

Wet weather is expected to continue through the next six days, said Pi and Dykema. Rain is forecast to return Tuesday or Wednesday and again on Friday.

“We’re in a good wet weather pattern,” Pi said.

Tuesday’s storm is expected to pass over the North Bay, dumping 1 to 3 inches of rain and lighter amounts on the rest of the area, according to the National Weather Service.

The weekend storm brought about a foot of snow to the Sierra on Saturday night, and as much as 2 feet more was expected Sunday. A winter storm warning was in effect until 4 a.m. Monday with moderate to heavy snowfall anticipated.

Chain controls were in effect late Sunday morning on Highway 50 as snow fell on the roadway. Traffic and weather officials warned travelers to avoid the region entirely because of near white-out conditions.

By Sunday afternoon, Caltrans had shut down both directions of Interstate 80 between Colfax and the Nevada line because of spinouts and zero visibility, and first responders were working to get travelers out of the closure area, said Deanna Shoopman, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

There is no estimated time to reopen the roads.

“As soon as Mother Nature stops snowing, our guys will get in there, plow the fresh snow and get traffic moving as long as it’s safe to travel,” Shoopman said.

The heavy snowfall led to avalanche warnings in parts of the Sierra. The Sierra Avalanche Center issued a backcountry avalanche warning for the Lake Tahoe area and south along the California-Nevada line from noon Sunday until 7 a.m. Monday. The National Weather Service said blizzard conditions with gale-force winds could trigger avalanches throughout the area.

No debris flow warnings have been issued for the Northern California burn areas, but California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said Sunday that they would keep an eye on the scars and weather forecast.

“We’ll definitely take the rain to fill up the reservoirs and to get groundwater where it needs to be,” said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean. “It will get some moisture into the vegetation and the ground. It’s not a cure-all storm by any means.”

Weather forecasters said they would monitor an increasing risk of debris flow, especially in the North Bay, as rain continues to pound the Bay Area into the week.

San Francisco International Airport has to shut down one of its side-by-side dual runways when weather conditions reduce visibility. The airport began operating with a single runway at 8 a.m. Sunday and was expected to continue reduced operations until midnight, said Bob Rotinksi, airport duty manager.

By 4:40 p.m Sunday, 154 flights out of SFO had been canceled and 410 flights delayed. Outbound flights were delayed by an average of 30 to 45 minutes, officials said.

Michael Cabanatuan and Gwendolyn Wu are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email:, Twitter: @ctuan @gwendolynawu


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