At 1:15 Friday morning, NormaRae Johnson was lying in bed, having just fallen asleep as the wind howled outside her Redding home.
She woke with a jolt as the oak tree outside her bedroom window came crashing down, smashing part of her fence and raised-bed gardens and mangling the home’s gutter.
“Oh, it could have been much worse,” said Johnson, 71. “I could have lost my life.”
Johnson is among the north state residents reporting damage from the front end of a series of warm, windy typhoon-fueled storm systems that are on a track to hit Northern California, Oregon and Washington through the weekend. On Friday, a tornado kicked up along the Oregon Coast in the Tillamook County town of Manzanita, destroying at least two buildings and damaging a home, The Associated Press reported.
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Farther south, Redding saw wind gusts as high as 59 mph and an inch and a half of rain, amid scattered reports of falling limbs and local power outages.
The storm system hit Sacramento in the late morning, and by early Friday afternoon a third of an inch of rain had fallen in the city, and close to a half-inch in the Lincoln area.
The real soaking happened on the North Coast. More than 5 inches of rain fell overnight in the Crescent City area, smashing the 2009 rainfall record for the day by almost 4 inches, the National Weather Service reported.
Cindy Henderson, Del Norte County’s emergency services manager, said there were few problems to note Friday morning despite some areas reporting more than 10 inches of rainfall. Crews remain on high alert, with forecasters predicting the coast could get up to 18 inches of rain by the time the last storm passes through Sunday.
“I would predict we probably have some power outages and some flooding,” Henderson said.
The next wave of storms is expected to blow over the north state Saturday afternoon and linger through Sunday night, said Courtney Obergfell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
“It will start to taper off Sunday night in the Valley, and it looks like some showers may linger over the northern part of the state on Monday,” Obergfell said. “For the most part down here, (expect) dry weather for the rest of the week.”
Before sunshine returns, the system is expected to bring wind gusts of the kind that helped fuel the Emerald Fire burning near Lake Tahoe. The fire broke out around 1:30 a.m. Friday and quickly consumed 200 acres, fanned by wind. The heavy rain aided firefighters, but as of Friday evening, it was just 25 percent contained.
While the wet storm was welcomed by many Californians enduring a fifth year of drought, forecasters cautioned it may well be an anomaly for the season. On Thursday, the National Climate Prediction Center revised its long-range forecast to say there’s a 70 percent chance of a La Niña weather pattern developing along the Pacific Coast.
When the surface of the ocean warms, it’s more likely to lead to the wet years typically associated with El Niño. Conversely, cooler ocean temperatures often produce drier La Niña conditions in the southwestern United States, including California.
Last month, the center declared a neutral weather pattern in the Pacific and an uncertain forecast, but forecasters say conditions have changed enough to declare a La Niña more likely.