Saturday started out fairly wet, but the massive storm building off the Pacific Coast didn’t really touch down in Sacramento until well after nightfall.
The ebb in the storm gave residents time to prep sandbags and run a few last-minute errands before the deluge. The prospect of heavy rains flooding the Cosumnes River prompted officials to open an evacuation center in Elk Grove on Saturday afternoon.
Forecasters say the storm could bring as much as 4 inches of rain to the Sacramento area, and up to 15 inches in other locations along the Sierra Nevada and foothills. Much of Northern California and the San Joaquin Valley remained under severe risks of flooding.
The first wave of the storm did bring some rain and heavy wind gusts to the Sacramento region, with most areas receiving about half an inch of rain by Saturday morning. Some areas were approaching an inch of rain by evening.
The biggest problems on Saturday were from heavy winds.
Power outages were reported in the Sacramento area as trees and limbs toppled. The largest outage left nearly 13,000 customers without power between Highways 50 and 16, south of Rancho Cordova, after a car hit a utility pole, according to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Power was restored to most homes within an hour.
Forecasters warn that drought-weakened trees whose roots are now saturated from heavy rains could be at risk of toppling. That’s what appeared to have happened when a woman died Saturday morning in Contra Costa County after a tree fell on her at a golf course, according to fire officials.
In Sacramento, heavy winds knocked down a tree at Charisma Apartments on Marconi Avenue in Carmichael. No one was hurt, but residents were forced to stay put for a while.
A 125-foot oak tree fell on the gates at the property around 11 a.m., blocking cars from entering or exiting the 26-unit complex, said property manager Linda Thomason. The tree also wiped out the electrical box controlling the gate, Thomason said. She believes the rain saturated the soil and led to an uprooting.
“We have no way in and no way out, other than walking,” she said. “I’m thankful no one was at the gate punching in a code or they would have been smashed.”
In the high country, mountain travelers in the Sierra had a fairly easy drive on Saturday. But farther north, cold weather in the Sacramento Valley brought snow to lower elevations and snarled traffic.
Heavy snow fell as low as Redding on Saturday morning, but by midmorning it had started turning to rain.
That was expected. Forecasters had predicted frigid northern temperatures would warm significantly by Saturday afternoon as the first wave of the massive storm stuck Northern California.
Snow levels are expected to rise as the bulk of the warm storm hits. That’s going to increase downstream flood risks because of rain falling on several feet of fresh Sierra snow. Anticipating such risks, the California National Guard announced Saturday afternoon that it had mobilized troops to help emergency officials should there be flooding.
In the Sacramento region, local officials continued to warn residents Saturday to prepare for flooding in low-lying areas near creeks and rivers. Local officials said the largest risk was likely along the Cosumnes River, particularly in the Wilton area of southeastern Sacramento County. On Saturday afternoon, officials issued voluntary evacuation notices urging residents to leave the area.
The Red Cross opened a shelter to house evacuees at the Elk Grove Pavilion at 9950 Elk Grove Florin Road in Elk Grove.