Nevada County soaked by first rains since May
After nearly six months of almost cloudless bliss, the skies opened Thursday and unleashed a barrage of rain and wind that left thousands without power and most of Nevada County soaking wet.
In the first measurable rainfall since May 21, a powerful combination of storms from Alaska and the Pacific collided, dumping up to 11¼2 inches of rain in places such as Cedar Ridge and bringing welcome snow to Sierran ski resorts.
An overnight power outage hit thousands of people in Cascade Shores, and an estimated 12,000 residents spent part of Wednesday night and Thursday morning without electricity, according to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
As of 6 p.m. Thursday, 1,195 customers were still without power, spokeswoman Lisa Randle said. Areas affected include Grass Valley and portions of Downieville and Allegheny. Power was expected to be restored by late Thursday evening.
Just after 6 p.m. Thursday near Lake Wildwood, winds blew over a tree, which in turn knocked down two utility poles and a power line, blocking Pleasant Valley Road near Highway 20, PG&E spokesman Skip Hescock said.
In addition to traffic delays, 827 PG&E customers lost power. Crews were still trying to restore power at 7:50 p.m., but a PG&E road-clearing crew had yet to arrive.
Nevada City reported receiving more than 11¼2 inches of rain by the early afternoon and Grass Valley got nearly an inch, according to local reporting stations.
Winds downed power lines and shook limbs to the ground. A gust that topped out at 55 mph hit the Nevada County Airport before dawn Thursday
Most of the town of Washington spent the day in the dark after power lines went down along Maybert Road.
Power was restored around 4 p.m., said Linda Lee, who was winding down the day with friends at Washington Hotel bar.
There wasn’t much to do Thursday.
“I just sat in the dark, using candles,” said Lee, a 20-year town resident who has had frequent outages. “You just can’t blow dry your hair or watch TV.”
Cascade Shores residents also spent Thursday staring at blackness.
“I’m used to it so I didn’t really panic,” Bob Crabb said. “We were pretty much prepared for it.” Crabb used flashlights to fumble his way through the dark, which residents said began at approximately 1 a.m. and lasted until about 11 a.m. Thursday. “I’m going to buy a lantern today.”
Cascade Shores resident Margie Blackston, who routinely awakens before sunrise, said she is also used to outages – though it did seem surreal outside, with high winds swirling pine needles around and sending rain sideways.
“It was amazing (the rain) came so suddenly. It looked like a small hurricane had come through,” said Blackston, who normally arrives at her job at Club Sierra Sports and Fitness around 4:30 a.m.
Blackston, a longtime Cascade Shores resident, said, “It was thrilling … I think wintertime is absolutely beautiful up here. Very seldom are we inconvenienced up here. We’re prepared.”
The California Highway Patrol advised motorists to be prepared, as well.
Officer George Kirbyson said rain’s arrival brings slick oil and gasoline to the surface of roads. He warned motorists to drive gingerly on roads and the Golden Center freeway the next few days.
“Slick roads are a given,” he said.
Aside from a few fender-benders and minor flooding on the raised
portion of the freeway, Kirbyson said there were few problems.
He advised motorists to drive slowly, keep even greater distances between vehicles, and drive with headlights on.
Kirbyson said the CHP is increasing its patrols over the next few days.
That might be a good idea, as the National Weather Service’s Sacramento bureau is predicting rain through Saturday in western Nevada County and snow in elevations above 7,000 feet. Between Wednesday and Sunday, the weather service is forecasting up to 5 inches of rain and 3 feet of snow, forecaster Holly Snell said.
At Boreal Mountain Resort near Donner Summit, 4 inches of snow fell Wednesday, with more expected this weekend.
“We’re excited,” Boreal Motel manager Sharon Komaski said. “The snow’s coming in with a bang, and it’s going to be awesome.”
Sugar Bowl received 2 inches Wednesday and is planning to open on Nov. 27, according to the resort’s Web site.
Back in Washington, Lee said she’d been without power and a telephone long enough.
“I’m going to get one of those (non-electronic) old phones,” she said, “so I don’t have to worry about that – or maybe I’ll just go outside and scream.”
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