‘Pineapple Express’ storm brings modest rain, rural flooding; more on the way

Melody Castro-Paolini holds an umbrella above her husband Dennis Paolini as he rakes leaves out of the gutter on Folsom Blvd near 38th Street on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.
Melody Castro-Paolini holds an umbrella above her husband Dennis Paolini as he rakes leaves out of the gutter on Folsom Blvd near 38th Street on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Rainfall in the Sacramento area has been been continual but not overwhelming on Thursday, with few significant incidents reported. Weather officials say a major storm is still pushing through the area, with significant rain ahead for the afternoon commute.

Downtown Sacramento had received 0.69 inches of rain as of 1 p.m., while Sacramento International Airport had received 0.89 inches. No local creeks have flooded, although water has ponded on roadways in a number of areas, and several large trees were knocked down by morning high winds.

The worst of the wind is over. But Johnnie Powell, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said the metro area could see an additional one inch of rain before the end of the day.

“The rain is still coming for us, so we’re still going to get lots, and the rain is going to continue throughout the night,” Powell said.

Rainfall totals were much higher in the Bay Area, where significant flooding was reported in some areas. Highway 101 south of San Francisco, for instance, was closed in both directions Thursday afternoon, as was Highway 37 between Vallejo and Marin County.

The dam at Lake Shasta saw 7.64 inches of rain as of 1 p.m. Thursday, while the area around Clear Lake got more than 5 inches and Redding more than 3 inches.

Power outages were minimal throughout the area for both SMUD and PG&E customers.

The most serious flooding concern in the Sacramento Valley affected Red Bluff, where several apartment buildings and businesses were inundated by shallow water. The Sacramento River was expected to exceed flood stage at Red Bluff by 4.5 feet, potentially flooding low-lying areas.

In Tehama County, heavy rain has flooded apartments, buildings and roads. Officials have opened two emergency shelters in Red Bluff and Corning. The Red Cross is working to open a third shelter in Los Molinos later Thursday.

“We have creeks and low-lying flood areas that are filling with water,” said Lt. Yvette Borden of the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office.

Borden did not know the number of evacuees. She said the rain has primarily affected the Dairyville area of the county, about 8 miles southeast of Red Bluff.

“That place has been hit hard,” Borden said.

She has this recommendation for area residents: “Shelter in place if possible."

Flooding has also been reported in low-lying areas of Dunsmuir, along the upper reaches of the Sacramento River above Lake Shasta.

In rural areas of Glenn, Lake and Yolo counties, small streams were nearing flood stage due to daylong rain. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for these areas through 1 a.m. Friday.

In Yolo County, Highway 16 was closed by a mudslide. At Clear Lake, more than 5 inches of rain was reported and one lane of Highway 29 on the west side of the lake was closed by a mudslide.

In Sacramento, some major surface streets were already experiencing spots of standing water by mid-day. Water was pooling in many areas along Fair Oaks Boulevard between Walnut Avenue and Watt Avenue. A large puddle had accumulated on J Street near the entrance to California State University, Sacramento.

However, traffic was moving well on area freeways. A morning crash on the boat section of I-5 in downtown Sacramento was quickly cleared and both Highway 50 and the Capital City Freeway were moving well after 1 p.m. An afternoon crash on southbound Interstate 5 near Florin Road closed two lanes.

Rain run-off was flowing heavily into area creeks, but there were no reports of those streams overflowing their banks. Arcade Creek was running quickly and full of debris along Winding Way near American River College. Dry Creek in the Rio Linda area also had room left before cresting the banks.

Chad Hertzell of the California Highway Patrol said traffic has been light on local freeways, with smooth sailing during the morning commute, and only a handful of crashes during the day.

"So far so good," he said. "My guess is people have stayed home, people are avoiding the storm today. "

He said officials are hoping the afternoon commute will be light as well, "but we won't know until then."

Hertzell said there have been spin-outs on local freeways today, however, and he cautioned drivers to take it easy tonight, especially in the dark, when it is harder to see areas where water is pooling up.

El Dorado County emergency officials were keeping watch on a region where several homes were destroyed in September’s King Fire and others may now be vulnerable if denuded mountainsides give way.

“We’re keeping an eye on White Meadows Road,” said El Dorado County Sheriff’s Lt. Tom Murdoch. “There are residences there that didn’t burn in the fire and we could have some slumping of hills and things like that.”

Seven schools in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District canceled classes and began busing student home early today after a power outage, affecting 340 homes, in Myers. The schools closing were Bijou Elementary, the Environmental Science Magnet School, the Sierra House Academy, South Tahoe Middle School and South Tahoe High School.

Power was expected to be restored to the area by 4:30 p.m. Classes were still scheduled for Friday.

Snow was beginning to accumulate on Sierra Nevada highway passes, and chain controls were in force on Interstate 80 in the Donner Summit area. Snow levels were expected to drop as temperatures cool further tonight. As much as three feet of snow is possible at the passes.


Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser. Staff writers Richard Chang, Tony Bizjak, Ryan Lillis, and Peter Hecht contributed to this report.

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