Sacramento got a taste of winter Saturday, as the largest storm in 14 months lumbered through the region, dumping much-needed rain.
“We still have a ways to go in this very wet storm series,” said Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.
Downtown Sacramento received 0.96 inches of precipitation during the 24-hour period ending at 8 p.m. Saturday. Other communities in the Valley fared similarly, with Elk Grove and Fair Oaks measuring 0.75 and 1.38 inches, respectively. Officials are predicting up to 2.5 inches through today.
The downpour is good news for a state that’s been mired in a water crisis. The last time a storm dumped more than an inch of rain in Sacramento was December 2012, according to the weather service.
Across the capital region, local governments scrambled to prepare for the wet weather. Citrus Heights, a city with many creeks, distributed sandbags to residents in anticipation of minor flooding. Meanwhile, Roseville city officials said they were closely monitoring the storm.
The system battered the foothills and the Sierra with rain. Auburn measured 2.91 inches of rain by 8 p.m. Saturday, and Blue Canyon in Placer County received 5.15 inches. Elevations below 6,500 feet were hit by extensive rain, following the flurry of snow Friday night.
On J Street in downtown Sacramento, crews were seen trimming tree branches Saturday morning after a wind advisory was issued by the weather service.
The advisory has since been canceled, but not before winds brought down an old tree in east Sacramento. Owners of the house next door on 46th Street awoke to a roar at 3 a.m. Saturday, when the tree came crashing down, crushing their Lexus sedan parked on the driveway.
“It was like a rolling, really loud boom,” said Brian O’Connor, in an interview. “I jumped out of bed thinking it was thunder.”
O’Connor, who has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years, said he would have died if the tree had collapsed 20 feet north.
Since the storm began, Sacramento’s Department of Utilities has received 31 calls for clogged drains and five for downed trees, spokeswoman Jessica Hess said early Saturday afternoon.
“Normally if a storm dumps a lot of rain really fast, we would have seen a bunch more calls,” Hess said, adding that the city has assigned 58 people to weather patrol. “But this has been a steady rainfall, which has helped the system work.”
Sierra ski resorts, reeling from the lack of snow, saw nearly a foot of the white powder. Snowfall has moved to elevations of 6,500 feet or higher. The weather service is predicting another foot of fresh powder through today for elevations of 7,000 feet and above.
The heavy dose of snow will make crossing the Sierra Nevada treacherous. Saturday night, the California Highway Patrol reported rocks, mud and dirt obstructing Highway 50 near Ice House Road. Numerous spinouts and accidents clogged the roadways from the Valley to the Nevada state line. “The roads are saturated with water,” said Officer Michael Bradley, a spokesman for the agency in Sacramento.
The state Department of Transportation imposed chain control on Interstate 80 from Kingvale in Placer County to the Donner Lake interchange in Nevada County. On Highway 50, chains were required from Twin Bridges to Meyers in El Dorado County. Although chain control extended 10 miles on I-80, CHP Officer Peter Mann said most of the snow accumulated in a one-mile stretch near Castle Peak, at 7,000 feet.
Although the storm has been a godsend for an otherwise dry season, weather experts noted that the water problems haven’t disappeared.
In the past three days, Sacramento has received a bump from 16 percent of normal for precipitation to 26 percent, the weather service reported. The week ahead remains unsettled, with a slight chance of showers Tuesday.
“It’s not going to end the drought, but it’s going to help short term,” Swanberg said.
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang. Bee staff writer Ed Fletcher contributed to this report.