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Deadly Storm Pounds California With Rain, Strong Winds, Heavy Snowfall

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) -- The second in a string of powerful storms battered California on Saturday, bringing down trees, flooding roadways and prompting evacuations in wildfire burn areas where intense downpours could loosen bare hillsides and cause mudslides.

A wind gust in Santa Barbara County topped 80 mph as the storm moved south. Wind and flash flood warnings were issued for the southern part of the state after being lifted in the Bay Area.

Multiple accidents were reported on slick highways, including a crash on Interstate 5 that killed a volunteer member of a sheriff's search and rescue team and injured several others.

The team from Ventura County was on its way to a training exercise when members stopped to help at the scene of a single-vehicle rollover crash.

A minivan carrying a family was traveling too fast for the wet conditions, lost control and plowed into members of the team. Nine people were transported to hospitals, including a member of the rescue team who was in critical condition.


In the North Bay, the rain tapered off for a time at around 6 a.m. as a cold front moved into the region before sunrise. One thing that remained a constant was the strong winds with the high-wind warning still in place until it is set to expire at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

Some parts of the Bay Area saw wind gusts overnight up to 50 and 60 miles per hour.

Many areas were seeing a break in the rain after a large and powerful storm cell moved through the region between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. with that cell starting to move through into the Central Valley.

At around 5 a.m. PG&E reported a fairly large power outage near Santa Cruz that is impacting about 6,000 people. Crews are on the way to try to make necessary repairs.

Up near the Russian River, trees and power lines came down overnight on Bohemian Highway in Monte Rio, knocking out power to about 500 people.

Downed Tree in North Bay
Tree downed by strong winds from winter storm. (CBS)

The Monte Rio fire department cut up part of the tree to allow emergency vehicles to get through,:but the road will be closed to any traffic until PG&E can repair the lines.

In Santa Rosa, strong winds and heavy rains pelted the area between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.. As of about midnight, the National Weather service was reporting peak wind gusts in Sonoma County around 62 miles per hour.

A winter storm warning is in effect for the west slopes of the Sierra including Lake Tahoe from Friday at 4 p.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday. Expect gusty winds, heavy snow and travel delays in the Sierra. The snow level will be down to 4,000-5,000 feet and down to 2,000 feet Monday. Snow at the passes could reach between 36 and 60 inches.

Caltrans, the California Office of Traffic Safety and CHP are recommending that drivers not travel through the Sierra this weekend due to the heavy snowfall expected.

Caltrans announced it would close State Route 140 in Mariposa County in the area of the Ferguson Fire burn scar early Saturday morning. Seventeen miles of road will be closed from Bear Creek to Foresta Road near the west entrance of Yosemite National Park.

After the storm has passed, Caltrans crews will clear any debris and inspect the road before reopening it to traffic.

Caltrans officials are worried about landslides along state Highway 1 and will close a 44-mile stretch of the road in Big Sur. The road was closed between Deetjens and Ragged Point Friday evening. Officials anticipate reopening the road on Monday, though that depends on whether the road is damaged by the storm.

A colder storm system rolls into the Bay Area Sunday, lasting into Monday. That system will drop the snow level down to 2,000 feet, so Mount Tamalpais, Mount Hamilton and Mount Diablo could see a dusting of snow Monday morning.

There is a chance of showers Tuesday before drier weather returns Wednesday.

© 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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