Heavy downpours slow traffic, set rainfall record

Water and leaves accumulate along Stockton Boulevard near Alhambra in Sacramento on Wednesday. Rain caused some minor flooding throughout the area.
Water and leaves accumulate along Stockton Boulevard near Alhambra in Sacramento on Wednesday. Rain caused some minor flooding throughout the area.

Wind and heavy downpours caused power outages and flooded roadways throughout the Sacramento region Wednesday.

But the storm also boosted Sacramento’s rainfall total for the season to above average and set a new record for rainfall in a calendar day at Executive Airport.

As of 7 p.m., Executive Airport reported the day’s total at 2.2 inches. The previous record for that location was 1.29 inches in 1994, said Karl Swanberg, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Downtown received 1.84 inches, trailing the record of 2 inches in 1890.

As of Wednesday evening, total rainfall for the season was 112 percent of normal in downtown Sacramento and 143 percent of normal at Executive Airport, Swanberg said.

The National Weather Service also issued a flash-flood warning for El Dorado, Placer and Nevada counties Wednesday afternoon that extended until 11 p.m., due to thunderstorms in the area.

As of 4:15 p.m., the Weather Service reported that 1 inch of rain had fallen in the previous hour over portions of the three counties and additional rainfall amounts of up to 1.5 inches were possible. Affected areas included Rocklin, Loomis, Newcastle, Lake of the Pines, Applegate and Alta Sierra.

As of 6 p.m., 24-hour rainfall totaled 3.31 inches in Auburn, 2.46 inches in Orangevale, 2.4 inches in Roseville and 1.73 inches in Elk Grove, Swanberg said.

The forecast for Thursday is mostly cloudy with a 60 percent chance of rain in the Sacramento area, with highs in the low 60s. The chance for rain will continue into Thursday night and increase after midnight.

Swanberg said weather conditions are expected to be unsettled and showery through Monday night, with a possible break from storms Tuesday and Wednesday. Although the region is not likely to experience the periods of intense rainfall that it saw Wednesday, “the system Friday is starting to trend stronger,” Swanberg said.

Heavy rains Wednesday flooded major highways and city streets throughout the Sacramento area, making for a treacherous evening commute.

Deanna Shoopman, a Caltrans spokeswoman, said all major highways in the Sacramento area were experiencing flooding during the late afternoon due to heavy rains. She said crews were working as fast as they could to clear drains and ensure pumps were working. About 3 p.m., four cars were reported floating in water on the Capital City Freeway in the area of Fulton Avenue, she said.

“The water is deep,” Shoopman said late Tuesday afternoon. “It’s up to sedan car doors.”

As the evening commute got underway, traffic also was snarled because of an overturned big-rig with two trailers on southbound Interstate 5 near Twin Cities Road, she said.

The California Highway Patrol’s traffic-incident website reported flooding at numerous points along Interstate 80 from Sacramento to the Auburn area. Vehicles were reported stalled in water on eastbound I-80 at Watt Avenue. Traffic was reduced to one lane. Northbound lanes of Watt Avenue also were closed from about 3:30 to 5 p.m. due to roadway flooding at Roseville Road. The CHP reported that power outages were preventing Caltrans from pumping water off I-80 at Watt Avenue. The CHP reported the pumps began working at 6:30 p.m., and Caltrans said the drains were cleared and traffic was free flowing at 8:10 p.m.

Linda Tucker, spokeswoman for the city of Sacramento’s Public Works Department, said the city received 275 weather-related calls between 7 a.m. and about 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. Most came in before 8:30 a.m. and involved street flooding due to storm drains clogged with leaves. Then when the wind hit in the early afternoon, the department received about 40 calls reporting downed tree limbs.

She said the central city was particularly hard-hit by street flooding as the evening commute began.

The storm also caused numerous power outages. Sacramento Municipal Utility District crews were working to determine the cause of a power outage Wednesday afternoon that affected nearly 10,600 customers in the Carmichael area.

The outage occurred at 2:56 p.m. Chris Capra, a SMUD public information officer, said it involved a substation and a high-voltage line. Power was restored at 3:45 p.m., but Capra said the cause had not been determined.

The Carmichael outage was the largest among several that affected customers districtwide Wednesday. Capra said most were fuse outages, typically caused by something like a palm frond hitting a line or lines slapping together in the wind.

In one instance Wednesday, a tree fell into a line in the Oak Park area, knocking out power to 3,000 customers, and a truck ran into a power pole in the Elder Creek area, causing an outage affecting about 1,300 customers.

Capra said SMUD increased staffing in anticipation of the storm, noting that 18 troubleshooters were in the field along with six line crews.

The National Weather Service had warned that areas of Placer and El Dorado counties affected by the King fire were especially vulnerable to flash-flooding and debris flows.

About 4:30 p.m., Jennifer Chapman, spokeswoman for the Eldorado National Forest, said residents in the area of White Meadow Road northeast of Pollock Pines, an area where homes were burned during the King fire, reported mud and debris on the roadway. She said a Forest Service storm patrol was evaluating the situation.

Most of the burn area is sparsely populated, and Chapman said it is dangerous to send crews into those areas when it is raining. If there is a break in the weather Thursday, she said, storm patrols will be sent out to assess the area.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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