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Powerful atmospheric river roars into Bay Area

Destructive mudslides in California

San Francisco — A Category 3 atmospheric river roared into the Bay Area early Wednesday, triggering torrential rains, flooded roadways, a treacherous morning commute and mudslides, CBS San Francisco reported. Runoff from the downpours also created a sinkhole in Castro Valley early Wednesday that had swallowed up a car and caused flooding in three nearby homes.

The storm had Sonoma County in its bulls-eye overnight as the National Weather Service issued an Urban and Small Stream Flood Advisory for the area.

Santa Rosa Creek overflowed over its banks, and the California Highway Patrol reported that several vehicles were stuck in standing water and that two vehicles were trapped.

By 7:30 a.m., Santa Rosa had gotten 2.58 inches of rain with Venado topping 4 inches, Pt. Reyes Station 1.94, Kentfield 1.97 and Mill Valley 1.58 inches. Sebastopol had seen 1.93 inches in the last 24 hours, and the Sonoma County Airport had 2.02 inches.

"Several reports from local law enforcement indicated flooding over roadways in the region (the North Bay) as rapid rises continue on area creeks and streams, especially those draining into the main stem rivers," the weather service said.

Minor mudslides were reported throughout the Bay Area.

"Recent rainfall has saturated soils across the area, and the additional heavy rainfall will create the potential for widespread shallow landslides, rockslides, and debris flows," the weather service said. "Periods of heavy rainfall will likely inundate storm drains with rapid rises on small creeks and streams."

Gusty winds also toppled trees and power lines in the region. A power outage in San Jose darkened more than 1,800 homes.

The weather service issued a high wind warning for the Bay Area until 10 a.m. Thursday.

"Strong winds may blow down limbs, trees, and power lines — scattered power outages were expected," the weather service warned. "Sustained wind speeds of at least 40 mph or gusts of 58 mph or more can lead to property damage."

San Francisco International Airport was reporting delays and cancellations. United Airlines announced that because of the chaotic travel situation at SFO it was waiving any fees travelers would have incurred while rebooking flights.

Officials also announced that the increment weather had forced them to close the Oakland Zoo.

The atmospheric river has its origins near Hawaii. The jet stream was carrying a plume of the storm front from the Hawaiian Islands to the West Coast. Over the weekend, the Hawaiian storm brought heavy downpours, high winds, pounding surf and a historic dusting of snow above 6,000 feet on Maui.

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